Blake’s 7 series 3 episode 13 – Terminal

Darkness descends on our favourite freedom fighters as their original leader hoves back into view...

All right, Servalan, let's not get too sentimental...

THE PLOTAvon is behaving oddly. Alone on the flight deck, he refuses to let any of the other Liberator crewmembers join him, and is receiving mysterious messages from an unknown source.

Fed up of all the mystery, Tarrant confronts Avon, who tells him that he would like to be alone for a little longer. Angry that Avon has changed course without telling anyone, Tarrant reluctantly leaves the bridge at Avon’s ‘request’. When Avon eventually does emerge from the bridge, he confesses that he has no idea where they are going.

The others immediately demand Zen to tell them what is going on, but Avon has blocked any forthcoming information. En route to their unknown destination is a cloud of fluid particles. At the moment, there is no way of telling whether the particles are dangerous or not, but a returning Avon demands that they stay on course.

Tarrant demands that Avon tells them what is going on or they will stop him, but Avon threatens to shoot him if he does not get out of his way. A shaken Tarrant takes his place with the others as they hold on during the turbulent ride through the cloud. Emerging from the particles, Zen informs the crew that there is no damage. But little known to the others, the hull of the Liberator has started to slowly rot away with some kind of chemical…

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Still unaware of his destination, Avon is told by Vila that there is a nearby planet. The planet is Terminal, which Tarrant explains is an artificial planet, an experiment that was apparently abandoned 400 years ago.

Terminal was used to study accelerated evolution of life on Earth, but the crew are baffled as to why Avon is so keen to teleport down there. Avon prepares to leave and tells the others that he will go down alone and will make regular contact. He adds that if they do not hear from him, then they are to leave without him, much to the others’ protests. Adamant that he will carry out his task alone, Avon says that if anyone follows him, he will kill them. Dayna teleports him down to a forbidding, windy, woodland area, where an ominous heartbeat like sound fills the air.

Tarrant and Cally also teleport down, slightly out of Avon’s range, to follow him. Avon is monitored by a man and a woman, Toron (Richard Clifford) and Reeval (Heather Wright) as they track his progress. Avon makes his way to a small pyramid that opens to reveal a guide sphere (voiced by David Healy).

The sphere orders that Avon identify himself and when he does, the sphere guides him to a large, futuristic bunker that leads down to an underground set of modern tunnels. Following Toron and Reeval, Cally and Tarrant watch helplessly as they are torn apart by a group of native creatures called Links. Determined to follow Avon, they make their way to the bunker, and warding off more angry Links, they too, descend to the tunnels.

On the Liberator, though, a horrified Vila and Dayna have found that the ship has broken out in large, rapidly spreading patches of mould that seem to be eating away into every part. Zen has been affected by the fluid particles too, and is rapidly losing the ability to communicate or even function. Vila demands that Zen channels all energy into halting regeneration systems and looking in to finding a solution to stop the damage instead.

Avon has made his way to a room full of advanced equipment – and a teleport bracelet. Activating a screen, it shows a familiar face – Blake. On a readout screen, Avon observes that Blake is responding well to some sort of treatment. Blake is alive. Leaving the room, Avon is ambushed by two guards and a woman called Kostos (Gillian McCutcheon).

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Avon is taken to a prison cell where he undergoes some sort of brain therapy. Snapping out of it, he escapes from the cell and makes his way to another part of the underground domain. In a room, wired up to various instruments, is Blake himself. Avon enters and a wry Blake tells him that he took his time in finding him. Avon shrugs this off and asks about the great discovery that will apparently make them rich.

Blake says that he will take Avon there, adding that he was close to death, and is being supported by the instruments. When Avon offers to teleport Blake up to the Liberator, Blake says that he wouldn’t survive the teleport transfer. Avon says that he will come back for Blake, and leaves. However, he is overpowered by the same guards. After more brain therapy, Avon is taken back to the exact same spot and woken up by Kostos, who has urged that they must keep the continuity right.

Avon is taken to Kostos’ boss – Servalan. Servalan is after the Liberator, and tells Avon that she is keeping Blake prisoner. Servalan is looking to do a deal with Avon – in return for the Liberator, Avon gets Servalan’s ship, Blake and whatever discovery he has made.

Cally and Tarrant have found the same equipment where Avon discovered the teleport bracelet. The equipment is identified as a voice synthesiser and a projector. They manage to make contact with Vila and Dayna, who tell them that the Liberator has now been so badly damaged that if it was to even move, it would disintegrate. Zen, too, is dying, and apologises to Vila for having failed them.

Avon apparently agrees to Servalan’s demands and contacts Vila. However, he tells Vila to get out of the area and abandon him instead. A furious Servalan knocks out Avon, but negotiations can begin again when Kostos ushers in a captured Cally and Tarrant.

Dayna is teleported down, and Servalan tells a devastated Avon that Blake is actually dead and that he encountered no more than a drug-induced mirage – the result of months of planning and equipment. Servalan had been mentally conditioning Avon to the point where he wanted to believe that Blake was still alive. Servalan adds that her ship is also badly damaged, but with some months’ repair, may be useable. With Kostos and the two guards, Servalan makes her goodbyes and teleports up to the Liberator. Avon muses that Servalan won and that he lost – Tarrant says that everyone ended up a loser.

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Just as Servalan has found. After Vila and Orac have teleported down, Servalan has ordered the damaged ship to move at “Maximum power!!” The Liberator instantly starts to fall apart and disintegrate. During the chaos, Servalan desperately rushes to the teleport area and programmes the controls, which explode. The bridge has totally disintegrated, killing a screaming Kostos and the two guards in the process.

The Liberator crew have mournfully witnessed the death of the Liberator on a screen, and Tarrant decides that they must find a way off this planet. With a lot of work to be done, the crew leave the room one by one, leaving Avon to wryly smile at his own big mistake…

ANALYSISEnd of the line. At the time of transmission, Terminal was touted as the last ever episode of Blake’s 7 – well, until the continuity announcer proclaimed that a further season would be ready in 1981 (apparently to the amazement of the cast, who hadn’t been notified).

Still, Terminal has all the hallmarks of a final fling. The Liberator is destroyed. Zen ‘dies’. Servalan apparently dies, as does Blake. Only two out of these ultimately turn out to be fact, but they all serve their function well in the narrative. There’s a feeling of doom hanging over the episode, thanks to Mary Ridge’s superb direction. The ominous heartbeat on Terminal, the plaintive location work and the eerie hallucination sequences are expertly handled by Ridge, who contributes much to Terminal’s success.

Just as well, since the episode’s main premise is a huge macguffin – so huge that it makes the Empire State Building look like a plastic toy. The Liberator’s destruction is all a result of Avon and his convenient quest to find Blake. It’s surprising that Terry Nation was the author, since, when he’s written for Avon in the past, the computer expert has always put himself and the Liberator first.

Even this season, in Dawn Of The Gods, Avon attempted to save himself and abandon the others. In Volcano, Avon put the Liberator first and Dayna and Tarrant last. Now, for some odd reason, he’s abandoned his usual rational thinking and flies the Liberator through a cloud of lethal fluid particles that ultimately reduce the ship to a heap of spare parts.

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That must have been some conditioning by Servalan, since Avon is also adopting the mannerisms that Blake took in Voice From The Past – mannerisms that Avon vocally spoke out against. All of which does strain the credibility of Terminal’s main premise, but if you can get past this, then there’s a lot to enjoy.

One aspect of which is Paul Darrow’s masterful performance as Avon. Pre-empting the season four persona, this Avon is cold, slightly unhinged and paranoid with a somewhat reckless streak. Avon’s resentment of Tarrant reaches boiling point here, as he sticks a gun at Tarrant’s chest, coldly muttering to him to stay away from him. Avon also orders the others to stay away from him, or else he will kill them.

This devil-may-care attitude could well be late fallout from Anna’s betrayal and death. Avon also appears to be crushed by Blake’s apparent death – his disbelieving, dazed expression at this bit of news speaks volumes.

It’s great to see Gareth Thomas back, even if it’s only for 90 seconds. Now sporting a David Bellamy beard, Blake apparently knows where a discovery of riches is – even though there’s a room full of riches on the Liberator. Did Avon and co spend it all?

Of course, it’s all a sham – another of Servalan’s dastardly schemes to get her grubby hands on the Liberator. Even by Servalan’s standards, the scheme is far-fetched. She’s even hired a new set of lackeys, including a finger clicking, haughty woman called Kostos, who looks like she should be the head of the strictest boarding school in the galaxy. Jacqueline Pearce gives a great performance though, and intriguingly, seems to be close to tears in her final speech to Avon and the others.

In fact, everyone’s on top form in Terminal. It’s great to see Vila behave like a rational, intelligent adult rather than a clich├ęd buffoon. Vila takes control of the disastrous situation on the Liberator, and proves his worth, even when events spiral out of his control. Michael Keating is excellent, and actually makes Zen’s death scene quite moving. Mention too, must go to Peter Tuddenham, who’s done outstanding work with the Zen voice, and here, he brings much to Zen’s final scenes.

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Production-wise, the only weak links are – well, the Links. Very obviously men in monkey suits, the Links are a nice idea in principle, but they look way too fake to be a convincing threat. Even when they tear the two bowlcuts limb from limb (well, glove from glove anyway).

Otherwise, the realisation of Terminal is excellent. Jim Clay’s expansive sets for the underground rooms are very impressive, compete with high ceilings, and these are also boosted by some subtle lighting contrasts between the tunnels and Servalan’s room.

It’s a bittersweet ending then, and the final destruction of the Liberator is excellently done, even if the immortal “Maximum power!!” line sets new heights of OTT camp. The disintegrating ship is very well handled by Mary Ridge, and Kostos’ death is very memorable too, as she plummets off the raised floor with a set of blood curdling screams. Dudley Simpson’s dramatic music puts the perfect finish to the last few sequences.

So where do the Liberator crew go from here? Stuck on a planet with all the warmth of a fridge in an igloo. No way out. Oh, and the prospect of season four to come too, which would probably cause some fans to panic. But that’s another tale for another time…

Check out our review of season 3 episode 12 here.

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