Blake’s 7 series 3 episode 1 – Aftermath

As series three opens, Avon seems to be getting all kinds of action…

Blake's 7 series 3 episode 1 - Aftermath

THE PLOT The battle is underway, but Star One is destroyed in the process. The Liberator is not faring much better, having come under serious fire. The teleport system and life support systems have been damaged, and so the crewmembers have to leave through life support capsules. Blake and Jenna have gone their own way, while Avon, Cally and Vila make their plans to escape. Avon is knocked unconscious by a piece of falling debris, so he is placed in one of the capsules along with Orac and launched into space. Vila and Cally only have seconds to escape before the life support system fails totally.

Avon, having recovered, instructs Orac to get them down to the nearest inhabitable planet, which turns out to be Sarran. Avon crawls out of the capsule, only to be confronted by a small group of bloodthirsty natives led by Chel (Alan Lake). The Sarrans are diverted by a girl called Dayna who helps Avon to escape to a nearby cave. Dayna introduces herself to Avon and says that she will take him to her father’s base, which is a space vehicle grounded on a sea bed.

En route, Avon and Dayna meet Servalan, who has also landed on the planet. They are forced into an uneasy alliance after they are pursued by Chel and the Sarrans. They make their way to a hatch in the middle of the beach which leads them to the underwater base. Once there, Dayna takes Servalan to get fresh clothes, while in the meantime, Avon meets Dayna’s father Hal Mellanby (Cy Grant), another fugitive from the Federation. Servalan questions Dayna about herself and her father, and after Dayna has left the room, she suddenly remembers Hal’s name.

Hal is also telling Avon about himself and Dayna. Dayna is a weapons expert and has devised some innovative new forms of fighting, despite his concerns. Hal also explains that his sight was destroyed by over-zealous Federation troops after he was taken in for questioning. He now wears a special pair of shades that links in with a device that allows him partial vision. At this point, they hear repeated clanging and see on one of the monitors that Chel and his troops are attempting to break in. Hal, Dayna and Hal’s adopted daughter Lauren (Sally Harrison) go to stop them.

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Avon makes contact with Zen via Orac. Zen informs Avon that Blake is uninjured but his location can’t be fixed. Jenna is on a hospital ship and safe and well, but Cally and Vila are nowhere to be found. Avon instructs Zen to give them top priority in locating them. Zen also tells Avon that a space vehicle has docked beside the Liberator, at which point the communication channel goes dead with static. Servalan, who has been listening, attempts to tempt Avon into an alliance (now that the Federation’s power is shattered), even going so far as to kiss him. Avon, however, is having none of it. “Imagination my only limit? I’d be dead in a week.”

The Sarrans have been stopped by a painful power device. Dayna and Hal return to the base, while Lauren stays on guard a bit longer. However, Lauren is taken unawares and surprised by Chel.

As Avon gets some rest before his departure next morning, Servalan attempts to steal Orac. She is stopped by Hal, but Servalan tells him that she knows who he is. Hal had led a revolt that took three weeks to suppress and which had cost several Federation lives in the process. The Federation promised a fair trial, but instead murdered virtually all of Hal’s friends along with his wife. Hal took the chance of saving Dayna, but became known as a coward and despised. Servalan shoots Hal’s optic device, blinding him, and in the confusion, she shoots him dead. A dying Hal alerts Dayna and Avon. Avon discovers that Servalan has stolen Orac, while a devastated Dayna is left weeping bitterly over her father’s dead body.

Avon and Dayna set off to find Servalan and Orac. In the process, Dayna finds Lauren – dead, killed by the Sarrans and hung up from a rickety wooden frame. Servalan has been captured by Chel and the Sarrans – Avon and Dayna manage to rescue her and hide her in the cave where they initially hid. Avon demands to know where Servalan hid Orac – Servalan only agrees to reveal the location if she is given a gun and a teleport bracelet so she can be taken to the nearest planet. Reluctantly agreeing, Avon is led to the beach by the entry lock. Servalan is momentarily distracted by approaching Sarrans, and in the confusion, Avon and Dayna teleport back up to the Liberator.

Once on board, Avon offers Dayna a place aboard the Liberator, but before they can locate Cally and Vila, they are confronted by a curly headed young man demanding to know what they are doing on his ship…

ANALYSIS It’s never easy being a Blake’s 7 character. Just when you thought you’d got settled into a life of chasing the Federation and other space age uglies, something comes along to rip the carpet out from under your feet. Such is the case with Aftermath, which deals with the fallout from the events of Star One.

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The battle between the aliens and the Federation and Liberator get the season off to a shaky start. Old footage from the last two seasons are used in a vain bid to convince the viewer that different planets and spaceships are involved in the attack. But thanks to the curse of the DVD age, it’s blatantly obvious that the ancient spaceship from Killer, Nova Queen from Star One (back from the dead) and even Space City (!) from Shadow are among the participants. A big event, since Star One is finally destroyed, but unfortunately, the budget doesn’t convince in the least.

Aftermath does win out with the characters though, and there’s big changes coming. First and foremost, Blake has gone AWOL – kind of a problem given that the show’s called Blake’s 7. You’d kind of suspect it, given that his wobbly patchwork head is nowhere to be seen in the brand new cartoony opening titles. Still, calling it Avon’s 7 would have sounded daft, and besides which, the title now takes on a new meaning, as future episodes will see the crew on the hunt for Blake as if he’s turned into some elusive, mystical figure.

Jenna is also now out of the picture, and although Vila and Cally are still in the show, their appearance here is limited to fleeting pre-filmed cameos. As with Gan’s death, one thing that Blake’s 7 never promises is absolute guarantees. Anyone could vanish, and it’s a nice idea that the first two episodes keep us guessing who will be staying and who won’t.

Instead, the episode focuses on three regulars – chiefly, new leader Avon. Avon’s personality has slightly mellowed as a result of his new leader status. Although the sardonic quips and the ever-increasing use of his established “Well now…” catchphrase are still present and correct, Avon – amazingly – is nice to both Hal and Dayna. He thanks Hal for his hospitality and seems to show very brief remorse at his death (We get a blink ‘n’ miss it close up of his sad face after Dayna’s found his body). He even comes up with the distinctly un-Avon quip, “I seldom comment on other people’s ethics.” Huh? This is the misanthropic Avon that normally loves criticising others for their opinions, yes? Even with this mixed new character, Paul Darrow acquits himself very well indeed as the new leader in Blake’s absence, successfully combining his usual cynical persona and a new, more heroic take on the character.

Josette Simon’s Dayna makes a welcome addition to the crew. Dayna – for this season at least – is intelligent, quick-witted and fun. Simon stamps her mark on the role quickly, and gives a highly engaging performance. It’s a great shame that her Season Four persona would be a big nuisance, but that’s another moan for another time. Her sobbing is certainly more convincing here at least than in season four. Compare her reaction to her father’s death with that of Justin’s in Animals, which takes OTT bawling to a whole new level.

The third main protagonist of Aftermath is Servalan, who’s now left at the bottom of the pile after the destruction of Star One. As far as powerful baddies go, Servalan’s stock is now on a par with Robbie Rotten from LazyTown. She’s reduced to making deals with Avon and hunting down small fry like Hal Mellanby, for no other reasons than for kicks and impotent revenge. The scene in which she cruelly destroys Hal’s optic device and shoots him in cold blood is Servalan to a tee. She’s so convinced of her own brilliance and power, that she feels no qualms in resorting to bullying and killing a defenceless man. “You don’t win wars by hiding!” she sneers.

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Jacqueline Pearce is as good as ever as Servalan, although in this season, the character does start to become a bit of a parody – partly because she’s in too many episodes and partly because she’s no longer the ruthless but calculating figure of Season One, more of a camp Dynasty-esque villainess. One thing’s for sure, though. Don’t invite Servalan round to stay. She makes the participants of Come Dine With Me look like monks by comparison.

Aftermath itself is enjoyable fare. The production’s generally good, apart from the badly edited opening battle. Vere Lorrimer’s direction is again strong, and he does well with his casting choices. Cy Grant is the best of the bunch as Hal, even overcoming the limitations of his silly costume and super-funky shades that make him look like Ray Charles auditioning for Earth, Wind And Fire. Grant convincingly conveys Hal’s rather sad back story of how he became a despised figure after causing the deaths of his wife and friends, just so Dayna would be able to survive.

Alan Lake is enjoyably hammy as Chel, leader of the Sarrans. Chel gets little to do but shout at the top of his voice and kill people for fun, but at least Lake makes a convincing baddie. Less convincing is Sally Harrison as Lauren, while Mike Yates from UNIT and Eddie Royle from EastEnders also make for less than convincing Federation troopers, and it’s little wonder that they’re rapidly turned into fish food by Chel and his buddies.

Aftermath successfully launches Blake’s 7 on its new course with an enjoyable story and also a memorable cliff-hanger. Matters still aren’t resolved by the end of the episode. Cally and Vila are still yet to be found, and wait – who’s the afro-headed stranger with a terribly posh voice and a claim for the Liberator?

Tune in next time…

Check out our review of season 2 episode 13 here.

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