Blake’s 7 series 2 episode 12 – The Keeper

The quest for Star One takes an atavistic turn as season two draws to a close…

Blake's 7 series 2 episode 12 - The Keeper

THE PLOT Blake, Jenna and Vila teleport down to the planet Goth in their quest to find Lurgen, the man that knows the location of Star One. The native Goths, however, don’t appear to take kindly to strangers, and overpower the trio. Jenna and Vila are captured, as Blake hides, desperately calling for Avon and Cally to teleport now.

Problem is, Avon is on his own mission – to destroy Travis after his ship has been located above Goth. The Liberator opens fire on Travis’ ship which explodes. After going back into orbit mode above Goth, they teleport a furious Blake back up, who now has to return on two missions and find Jenna and Vila, as well as Lurgen.

Jenna and Vila are brought before the planet’s ruler – or Charl – Gola (Bruce Purchase), who is not amused by the entertainment of his Fool (Cengiz Saner)or his mad old soothsayer Tara (Freda Jackson). Unfortunately, Travis is still alive and desperate to know the location of Star One. Visiting Servalan in a nearby tent, he persuades her to let him have her ship after he has found the identity of Lurgen in order to alert a Federation flotilla to attack the Liberator. Avon has found the ship, and is keen to destroy it. Cally, however, stops him, after his previous mistake with Blake.

Blake has met up with Gola’s brother Rod (Shaun Curry), who promises to take him to the underground tents and to attempt to stop Travis and Servalan finding the location of Star One.

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Jenna and Vila are questioned By Gola about their mission. Gola takes a particular fancy to Jenna, and says that they will both ‘pair bond’. Before this can happen, Jenna is taken before Tara to meet with her approval. Jenna attempts to look at Tara’s amulet – one of the amulets contains a brain print and the secret of Star One – but she is mentally overpowered by the soothsayer. Tara then agrees to show Jenna the amulet but it is blank, so later she tries to look at Gola’s amulet, but is told that it is not permitted.

Blake meets Vila in one of the dungeons after he has been forced in there after the Fool mimicked his voice and insulted Gola. He also meets a whining old man (Arthur Hewlett) who cannot stop moaning and shrieking in one of the dungeons. However, Vila is to replace the Fool after the jester is accused of putting a drug into Jenna’s wine.

Jenna has confronted Servalan and claims that she has been tricked by Travis, who has probably found the location of Star One, and is off to destroy it. After recovering from her brief dizzy spell, Jenna looks at Gola’s amulet but this too is blank. They are interrupted by the arrival of Blake and Rod, who challenges his brother Gola to a duel. They indulge in combat, but Gola gains the upper hand and kills Rod by strangling him and then stabbing him. Gola’s victory is short-lived though, after he drinks from a poisoned liquid handed to him by Tara, and dies. Now the only man to know the location of Star One is actually the old man – in reality the father of Gola and Rod. He was deposed by both, who then quarrelled over who should be the new Charl. But by the looks of it, the next Charl is to be Tara…

Blake, Jenna and Vila frantically run to the underground dungeons but they are too late – the Old Man’s talisman is blank too, after Travis has taken the brain print. The Old Man dies, but before he does, he whispers to Blake that “A fool knows everything and nothing.” Blake repeats this out loud, to which the Fool reacts by saying that the location of Star One is at Grid Reference C-17320 in the 11th Sector. Blake surmises that Lurgen put this into his brain, and when told that phrase, it acted as a trigger signal. They teleport back up, and the crew are now on course to find Star One…     

ANALYSIS Here’s a turn up for the books. An Allan Prior episode that’s actually good. By any other standards, The Keeper is enjoyable but undemanding medieval-style action adventure fare – given that it was written by Prior (who contributed the yawn-inducing Horizon and Hostage), then the episode’s a revelation.

The Keeper is similar in theme to the preceding episode Gambit, in that it deals with the quest to find Star One, but in a light-hearted and fun manner. Whereas Gambit was all glitzy casinos and sleazy dives, The Keeper takes its roots from medieval-style dramas what with its overbearing rulers, soothsayers, jesters and duels. Director Derek Martinus doesn’t disappoint, and adds a glossy sheen to this episode. The location work, with its unusual green tint to represent the noxious air, is very well done, and the interior designs of the tents are also highly effective.

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The characterisation though is slightly broad. There’s no real depth to any of the supporting characters who are just stock clichés. The Goths look like a cross between Vikings and Motorhead in the aftermath of a pie-eating contest. Gola is the standard shouty ruler, and although Bruce Purchase is obviously having a whale of a time with the character (very similar to his Pirate Captain in Doctor Who’s Pirate Planet), his non-stop shouting is very similar to Brian Blessed’s ear-destroying turn as Vargas in Cygnus Alpha. That said, he’s miles ahead of Freda Jackson’s OTT performance as Tara, a mad old biddy with a bad blue rinse wig and a relentless line in non-stop evil cackling.

Luckily, Sally Knyvette finally gets something substantial to do as Jenna after a disappointing lack of action in Season Two. She makes the most of this, and turns in one of her best performances. Like I said in the review for Countdown, her Season Two persona is a far cry from her more assertive character in Season One. The idea of her being no more than a ‘pair bonding’ partner for Gola is an iffy one, but at least Jenna uses her charms to actually find the location of Star One, even if the identity of Lurgen happens to be a red herring in the end.

The others don’t get much to do again, although Michael Keating has fun playing the jester after the Fool’s been carried off screaming into the dungeons. Blake himself hardly figures this episode, another one in which he takes less of a proactive role. Avon, on the other hand, leaves his brain behind, as he did in Hostage, on a one-man mission to destroy Travis and Servalan, and abandon his friends in the process, while not realising that he may have alerted the evil twosome from the Federation in the process.

But The Keeper is Prior’s most enjoyable script for Blake’s 7 by miles. It’s relatively free of the annoying hallmarks that pepper his other offerings. There’s less of the pompous dialogue, no Soma, no pursuit ship attacks, and amazingly, more action. The duel sequence, in particular, is well handled, with some good hand-held camerawork and a nasty end for poor old Rod as he’s brutally strangled and stabbed in rapid succession.

What’s more, The Keeper doesn’t take itself too seriously, a key failing of Prior’s other stories. After this, it’d be business as usual with the dull Volcano and Animals to come in the third and fourth seasons. But for now, savour The Keeper as an enjoyable stepping stone in the seemingly never-ending quest to find Star One. And with one more episode round the corner in season two, it looks like the crew of the Liberator are getting warm at last…

Check out our review of season 2 episode 11 here.

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