Blake’s 7 series 2 episode 8 – Hostage

This entry from the otherwise well-regarded series 2 favours plot-holes over black holes…

Blake's 7 series 2 episode 8 - Hostage

THE PLOT Having successfully evaded the biggest attack of Federation pursuit ships – a result of the Commander (Andrew Robertson) trying to get too clever with a fancy intricate attack pattern, the Liberator receives a message from the planet Exbar. It turns out that Travis is holding Inga (Judy Buxton), an old flame of Blake’s, hostage. Travis demands that Blake comes to Exbar and talk of a pooling of resources, since he is now an outlaw of the Federation. If Blake doesn’t come to Exbar in 25 time units, Inga dies. Despite Avon’s protests, Blake teleports down to the planet, although Cally suspects there may be a reason for Avon’s behaviour…

Servalan is not having a good day, having to answer to Councillor Joban (Kevin Stoney) about the lack of progress in capturing Blake. After Joban has departed, she receives a message from an outside source saying that Travis is on Exbar. Servalan sets off in a command ship for the planet.

After Blake has teleported down to Exbar to meet Ushton (John Abineri), his uncle, whom he thought dead, Avon also teleports down to the planet. He sees Ushton giving Blake directions to Travis’ hideout, although he also sees that one minute he has a limp, the next minute he doesn’t. And sure enough, Travis has been warned by Ushton of Blake’s imminent arrival. Avon follows Blake, but Blake is captured by Travis’ Crimos and taken before his enemy. Both Avon and Vila are also captured, the latter by Ushton – much to the dismay of Inga.

Travis demands a deal with Blake for the Liberator. When Blake refuses, he is forced to make other plans. He forces Vila to tell him what the word is for getting to the Liberator. After Vila has screamed out ‘Teleport!’ one of the Crimos, Molok (James Coyle) teleports up, demanding that Jenna shows him around the ship. After she has done this, he demands that they return to the planet, but he is tricked and ends up teleported into the middle of space where he explodes.

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Travis is faring no better on Exbar, having been double crossed by Ushton. Ushton releases Blake, Avon and Vila who between them, manage to overpower Travis and the Crimos. Although offered a chance to go with them, Ushton and Ingar elect to stay on Exbar, to gather its inhabitants together and also to provide them with food and drink.

Servalan, in the meantime, has landed on Exbar, having been summoned in secret by Avon. Encountering Travis, she decides to give him a second chance – all unofficially of course. “There’s no one as free as a dead man…”

ANALYSIS A dull plot is one thing. A dull and stupid plot takes some doing though. Nevertheless, it’s achieved in Allan Prior’s second script for Blake’s 7.

Hostage manages to be as boring as Prior’s prior script, Horizon. Here, though, he has included so many illogical plot twists, that if Mr Spock were to watch this episode, he’d end up crying into his bowl of tomato soup.

So where do we start? The main plot revolves around Travis’ stupid plan to lure Blake down to the planet Exbar with the unwilling co-operation of Inga. Yes, Blake’s cousin, who was apparently ‘very close’. Dubious for a whole number of reasons, not least that this closeness was some time ago when Inga was how old…? Still, Travis’ plan is stupid in itself in that he doesn’t actually have a plan in the first place. His supposed pooling of resources goes to pot the minute Blake enters the room, and instead he’s reduced to threatening to kill Blake and his buddies – although he can’t even do that efficiently.

Maybe it’s because he’s hired the Crimos, basically a Poundstretcher version of the Mutoids. These Criminal Psychos are about as effective as a cat flap in a lion cage, running around an awful lot but never getting much done. Their leader, Molok is particularly rubbish. He’s easily tricked by Jenna and Cally, which results in his untimely demise which looks awfully similar to Vargas’ death in Cygnus Alpha…

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And what’s with his weird way of speaking? “You. Are. Jenna. You. Are. Cally.” He leaves whopping great gaps in his stating of the obvious and sounds like a knackered Speak Your Weight machine. No wonder the Crimos never came back, although quite why they were introduced in the first place is unclear, since Travis has always hired Mutoids to carry out his dirty work. OK, it’s feasible he may have wanted a change, but the Crimos couldn’t organise an argument in the Big Brother house, never mind the death of Blake.

Avon’s also left his brain in the fish tank, since he inexplicably sent a message to Servalan warning her of Travis’ presence on Exbar. Absolutely baffling, since it was inevitable that Blake would teleport down. All their lives are unnecessarily put in danger, and Avon’s explanation never rings true for a minute – the only reason I suspect in the first place was that Prior couldn’t think of any other way of getting Servalan and Travis back together again. On which note, why would they anyway? Given that it’s only been a couple of stories since the events of Trial. Servalan wanted Travis out of the way, Travis wasn’t exactly impressed with Servalan’s duplicity. And now, they’re approaching being best buddies again? Totally crazy.

There’s also the issue of why Ushton betrays his daughter. Or how he miraculously becomes a force to be reckoned with when it comes to beating people up. Or why he pretends to have a limp in the first place. Or why… OK, you get the picture.

All this would be excusable if the plot were exciting and fresh, or if the episode was well made. Well it fails on both counts. Prior’s basic plot is dull, simply a lame rehash of bad Western movies, a genre I’m not that interested in anyway. Again, it contains inexplicable pursuit ship chases, too much Soma, and lashings of pompous, heavy handed dialogue that never sounds real or believable. The direction is also tired and lazy, which is strange, given that Vere Lorrimer’s produced some great stuff in the past. But here, there’s some whacking great goofs such as the pursuit ships on strings, the toy Action Man Blake falling down a small ravine, and the god-awful ‘The Word!’ sequence, which despite the best efforts of Michael Keating, just cracks me up with laughter every time I see it, which isn’t quite the effect that the actors had in mind, I’ll bet.

To be honest, this isn’t Brian Croucher’s finest hour. He seems to be struggling with some of the exposition-heavy dialogue and clichéd threats, although to be fair, even Laurence Olivier would have trouble making this sort of dialogue sound convincing. In actual fact, all the regulars seem to be going through the motions. The supporting actors are reasonable, especially Kevin Stoney’s Joban – think Tobias Vaughn in space. But overall, there’s no real spark to light the fire. Hostage is a mess, mainly down to the script and poor plotting, which seems to have had a domino effect of not firing up the director or cast enough to make the best of what they could from it… 

Check out our review of season 2 episode 7 here.

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