Blake’s 7 series 2 episode 2 — Shadow

Blake just can’t say no to the drug that could get him nearer his dream of destroying the federation...

Blake's 7 series 2 episode 2 – Shadow

THE PLOT In Space City, a deal is being finalised between Terra Nostra representative Largo (Derek Smith) and brother and sister Bek (Karl Howman) and Hanna (Adrienne Burgess). In return for producing a pouch of gems, Bek and Hanna are after a supply of the drug Shadow. Largo taunts them, sneering how the Terra Nostra has owned them from their first tiny drop of Shadow. However, Bek tricks Largo, and stealing his gun and gems, exits with Hanna. Bek tells Hanna to get Peety and to meet him at Launch Grid 6 in 20 minutes so that they can make their escape.

Blake’s latest plan – to do business with the Terra Nostra in order to gain resources for attacking the Federation – is meeting with disquiet from some of his crew, especially Gan (Vila, however, is too excited at sampling the charms of Space City). Blake aims to teleport across to the neutral location with Avon, Gan and Jenna, who will be reunited with her ‘friend’ Largo. Largo had wanted Jenna to run a cargo to Earth, without telling her initially that it was a consignment of Shadow – after Jenna found out, she refused, a wise move since possession means sentence of death. Blake tells Cally to work the teleport, while Vila is left behind, protesting – at least until he realises that Orac can work the teleport controls…

Bek’s plans to escape have gone awry. Finding Hanna in a Space City compartment, he also finds that Peety has died from an overdose of Shadow. Before they can escape though, Bek and Hanna are discovered by Largo’s Enforcer (Archie Tew).

Blake’s attempts to buy help and resources from the Terra Nostra are not getting anywhere, especially after Largo tricks them and holds them prisoner. While Avon and Gan are held in the compartment along with Bek and Hanna, Blake is forced to contact Cally. A deal has been done, but Largo demands the rest of the payment as a gesture of good faith. Cally urges Orac – who has been behaving strangely and taken Zen offline – to co-operate and to bring Zen back. Orac complies, and Cally opens fire on Space City, threatening more attacks if her friends are not released. In Space City, the remainder of the Liberator crew have made their escape. Avon and Gan have overpowered the Enforcer (with help from Bek and Hanna), and have broken into Largo’s quarters, where Jenna’s old friend is again knocked out. After initial resistance, Blake agrees to bring Bek and Hanna back to the Liberator.

Ad – content continues below

On board the Liberator, Orac has gone missing, Vila is in a drunken stupor after teleporting to Space City, while Cally is worried. However, Blake decides that it’s time to get back to the Terra Nostra, much to Gan’s disquiet. Rather than the diplomatic approach, Blake suggests brute force – an attack against Shadow itself, which would harm the Terra Nostra’s profits. Cally attempts to get through to Blake with her concern over Orac, but these fall on deaf ears. Suddenly, Cally hears the disembodied voice of Orac warning her that she should not have searched for it. Cally is trapped in a time loop and then in a surreal mind lock with the computer.

Having analysed Hanna’s supply of Shadow (commonly drawn from the Moon Disc), Blake sets controls for its planet of origin, Zondar. Gan, in particular is appalled at Blake’s plan to either give Bek and Hanna the drug or else to cheat them. Avon, meanwhile, is concerned that they have identified the source of the threat rather too easily…

Vila discovers Cally lying next to Orac in a catatonic state. Having run diagnostic checks on the telepath, Avon deduces that there is no logical explanation for her state, unless it’s locked up inside Orac.

The Terra Nostra chairman (Vernon Dobtcheff) has made contact with the Enforcer, who has identified the Liberator’s location – thanks to controlled particle emission elements implemented in all Shadow supplies by Largo, who has now been killed.

Blake, Jenna and Avon teleport down to Zondar to plant sensors among the ‘gardens’ of Shadow, allowing the ship’s blasters to pick off anything they choose. They are not the only ones, however, on Zondar. Cally, urged by the possessed Orac runs into the teleport and down to the planet’s surface. Cally was witnessed by Hanna, who tells Vila and Gan. Vila, who has foolishly put Orac in charge of the teleport, decides to man it himself, but when he goes to remove the computer’s key, he receives an electric shock. Orac announces that the bridge is complete, as the power on the Liberator decreases – dangerous given that this ship is heading towards the planet’s atmosphere. Hanna rushes to disconnect, but is electrocuted by Orac. With the Liberator on the edge of destruction, Cally resists the force that has overtaken Orac and captured her, and uses her mental powers to spirit Orac’s key down to her prone form on Zondar. The Liberator’s power returns, but it’s too late to save Hanna.

Having overpowered Terra Nostra guards on Zondar, Blake, Avon and Jenna have safely returned to the Liberator, as has Cally, who reveals that the alien life force was trying to use Orac as a bridge to cross from its universe to theirs. Cally was regarded as a threat and was overpowered by the force, but used the strength of the Moon Discs to overcome it.

Ad – content continues below

Blake, in the meantime, tells the others that he has retrieved ID from one of the dead guards. The man was a special member of the Federation President’s personal security force. Meaning that Blake has been trying to use the Terra Nostra to defeat the Federation, only to discover that it is being used to support it. It’s little consolation for Bek, but Blake allows him to be the first to destroy the Shadow sources – starting with the President’s garden…

ANALYSIS Seven years before the horror of Grange Hill’s Just Say No charidee travesty, science fiction TV was promoting the anti-drugs message far better. Doctor Who got in on the act with the derided Nightmare Of Eden (which I actually rather like), although its message was somewhat diluted by Muppet Show monsters and a clichéd Germanic professor called Tryst who kept babbling on about his Cee. Ee. Tee. Macheeen. Blake’s 7’s offering, Shadow, is rather more serious, and marks Chris Boucher’s debut script for the series after 14 stories from Uncle Tel.

Shadow significantly marks a change of gears in Blake’s 7. Nation’s stories, while on the whole, fantastic, tend to be straightforward action adventure stories, but Boucher injects a healthy dose of politics and darker shades of grey into the equation. Blake, for example, undergoes the shift in personality that I talked about in the waffle on Redemption. His attempts to beat the Federation are now starting to blind him to the morals and dangers that he always used to take into consideration. It’s now left to the others, and in particular, Gan, to act as his moral compass. Gan is especially appalled at how Blake’s disinterested manipulation of Bek and Hanna will leave him either a pusher or a cheat. It’s arguable that Blake’s conscience does start to rankle, since he’s later reduced to bellowing at everyone in sight after Cally has been found in a catatonic state. All Avon can do in the meantime is look on with slight amusement as he notices that Blake’s leadership skills are starting to get frayed around the edges.

Overall, Boucher’s decision to make Blake more of a morally questionable character was a brave but inspired one, and indeed, Shadow as a whole, tackles the issues of drug pushing and slavery very well indeed. His knack for memorable dialogue is very much in evidence here, and excellently brought to life by all the cast. The supporting actors are strong across the board, especially Derek Smith as the sneering Bond villain wannabe Largo, Karl Howman (proving that there’s more to him than Brush Strokes) as Bek, and Adrienne Burgess, whose fine performance as Hanna is worlds apart from her poor showing as Veet in Dr Who’s Sun Makers story (where she appeared alongside Michael Keating).

Jonathan Wright Miller’s direction adds much to Shadow’s success. His use of arty screen wipes, cross fades and distorted video effects make the story a highly memorable visual experience, with scenes such as the Liberator’s advance into Zondar’s atmosphere and Cally’s surreal mind conversations with Orac sticking in the mind.

On which note, Cally’s mental tussle with Orac is a slight mis-step in an otherwise excellent story. While it luckily allows Jan Chappell to show off her acting chops (before entering her Season Two career as teleport operator), the subplot of Orac’s possession just seems a bit far-fetched and convoluted for it to work properly. All it seems to require is for Cally to conveniently link minds with the Moon Discs and magically teleport Orac’s control switch down to Zondar. The final infodump explanation seems rather tacked on and forced – although it’s a nice twist that the Terra Nostra are being supported by the Federation.

Ad – content continues below

Altogether though, Shadow is one of the strongest episodes of the season, and also marks the first indication of how Season Two will progress with regard to Blake’s leadership skills.

Check out our review of series 2 episode 1 here.

News, episode   reviews and gossip about old and new Blake's 7