Blake’s 7 series 2 episode 1 — Redemption

The repo women come for the Liberator, arguably the biggest TDA in sci-fi history...

Blake's 7 series 2 episode 1 – Redemption

THE PLOT Despite running Orac’s prediction again, the super computer refuses to divulge its background to Blake – such is the paradox of prediction. Avon provides some reassurance (which he’s known for some time) by suggesting that Blake looks at the configuration of the stars in the place where the Liberator apparently explodes. It’s out in the 12th sector, which is halfway across the galaxy. So as long as the Liberator never goes near that area, the prediction becomes void.

There’s no time for celebration though, as the Liberator comes under attack from two hostile ships in hot pursuit. The ships aren’t Federation and remain unknown. The Liberator manages to shake them off, although there’s been damage. The worst of it is that the Liberator’s auxiliary drive has been damaged, meaning that the ship is still running on full power, which will be drained in two hours. Blake orders a rundown of repairs which can be carried out manually. As they start work, Avon is suspicious of the attack which could have wiped them out. Far from wanting to destroy the Liberator, Avon suggests that their ship is now on course for somewhere quite particular.

As if to prove his point, the Liberator controls are taking on a mind of their own, as if it is ‘rejecting’ the crew. In particular, a lethal power cable has singled out Blake in a subcontrol room, which could electrocute him with just one touch. Avon manages to rescue him in the nick of time by placing an explosive device on the coil which detonates.

The crew realise that someone – or something is controlling the Liberator, at which point, Gan is attacked by mysterious assailants who transport of their own accord on board. Cally and Vila also go missing, as Blake concludes that the only people who could control Zen are the ones who built the Liberator in the first place. Now they’re taking back what’s theirs – Redemption.

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Sure enough, the control deck is taken over by two women, the Altas (Sheila Ruskin and Harriet Philpin), who along with their guards, force Blake, Jenna and Avon to move out and board the space station, Spaceworld, on which the Liberator has landed. While Avon and Jenna are thrown into a cell, Blake is interrogated by Alta One, who along with Alta Two are the servants of the System, a complex of infallible machines that is the supreme power of Spaceworld and the three life supporting planets that orbit their sun. Alta One demands to know how Blake and the crew came by their Deep Space Vehicle Two, or the Liberator, but before the interrogation can continue, an outside influence is affecting the system – Orac.

In the cell, Avon has realised that they have been transported across the galaxy to the 12th sector, the exact point at which the Liberator apparently blows up…

Blake is being taken to elimination chamber two by the second Alta, but he makes his escape, aided by one of the Spaceworld slaves (Roy Evans). The slave promises to take Blake to the detention centre where the others are being held. Vila, in the meantime, has managed to break free from his cell, and releases Avon and Jenna, who join Cally and Gan. Before they can escape though, they are confronted by Alta Two and her guard who orders their destruction. Luckily, Blake and the slave intervene, as the slave kills the Alta with her guard’s weapon.

Blake and the crew manage to make it back to the Liberator, although the slave has been shot by one of the guards during the escape. The Liberator takes off, and an attempt by Alta One to blow the ship up backfires as Cally and Gan manage to teleport the grenade-wielding guards back into the Spaceworld control room.

Nevertheless, Orac’s prediction is still to come true. But what actually happens is that a sister ship of the Liberator, identical to the original, makes for them. But before it can open fire, the sister ship explodes, after Orac has scrambled its launch system and pre-detonated its missiles. Prediction made.

With the threat over, Blake sets course for Earth. There’s unfinished business with the Federation to attend to…   

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ANALYSIS Ah, season two – the season that can be filed under ‘Difficult Second Album Syndrome’.

Season One had proved to be a huge hit with audiences, and so it was inevitable that a second batch of stories would be commissioned. During season two, Blake’s battle against Servalan and Travis would come to a head, as would his own personal shift from idealistic freedom fighter to fanatical control freak.

In that respect, season two is arguably the most successful, since it contains the most coherent season-arc (ugh). Nowadays, season arcs are commonplace in practically every TV drama you can think of – 24, Ashes to Ashes, Doctor Who etc. Season Arcs can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how well they’re managed. At the time of writing, Ashes to Ashes‘ ‘Operation Rose’ story arc is proving to be intriguing and compelling. On the other hand, Doctor Who‘s very own Operation Rose story arc is never ending and stretches credibility to the limit. In fact, the whole obsessive Doctor/Rose storyline is now resembling a 24-hour marathon run of Groundhog Day, as viewed through a kaleidoscope.

So two different success rates (or for this reviewer any way). In Blake’s second season though, the two ongoing story strands are luckily very well thought out. Blake’s transition from dominant but democratic rebel to obsessive fanatic is complete by the season’s conclusion, with Avon waiting in the wings to take over. Blake’s fanaticism, as we’ll see, comes at a cost, both in the relationships and lives of the Liberator crew. Out of this first story arc comes the other – the quest to find Star One. This is the more obvious of the two, but again, it is intelligently reasoned with a payoff that comes totally out of left field.

Problem is, the quality of season two’s stories is all over the shop. Stories range from the brilliant through to the missed opportunity to the downright average and right down to the Prior, sorry, dire. Overall, season two is a frustrating experience, because for every great story, there’s a clunker lurking in the shadows.

All that’s to come. Redemption itself never really connects with the rest of the season. With its straight-ahead plot, and links to the previous few stories, Redemption exists in its own little season one bubble. The only tell-tale signs of a new season are brand new outfits, new haircuts for Cally and Jenna and Vila’s big sideburns, which have taken on Elvis proportions.

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Redemption is still great fun, and nicely answers the questions of the Liberator’s origins. It was only a matter of time before we’d find out the true owner, which turns out to be the System, which is here represented by two women in very tight blue cat suits. Sheila Ruskin and Harriet Philpin do well as the Altas, even if their characters are no more than stereotyped android-style drones. Ruskin’s Alta is snooty and aloof, if a little inconsistent. For example, when the Alta initially refuses to tell Blake what the system is, about 10 seconds later, she’s happily chatting away about it. Philpin’s Alta on the other hand, has some real anger management issues. Even dare to sneeze in the presence of this Alta, and she’ll very likely order your nose to be sliced off.

The story neatly ties up the resolution of the previous story Orac’s cliff-hanger. It does so in a way that doesn’t feel too obvious or contrived. Overall, the suspense is well maintained throughout, especially in the eerie scenes of the Liberator coming under some outside influence. Redemption boasts some good directorial work from Vere Lorrimer, some of his best, with great use of close ups and suggestive shots to indicate an alien presence on board the ship. His location filming is also good, although Spaceworld looks uncannily similar to the power complex on Saurian Major…

Still, that’s a minor quibble. Redemption provides a good mix of entertaining plot and sparkling dialogue and successfully wraps up the Orac trilogy of stories. A good breather before the real trials of season two begin…

Check out our review of season 1 episode 13 here.

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