Blake’s 7 series 3 episode 6 – City At The Edge Of The World

He's waited for three series to get some action, but now Vila's moment has truly come...

Carol Hawkins and Michael Keating in City At The Edge Of The World

THE PLOTTarrant forces Vila to teleport down to a planet which may be called Kezarn. The natives of the planet want Vila’s help, and in return, they promise crystals for the Liberator’s weaponry system. Tarrant’s bullying does not go down well with the others on the Liberator, with Avon even threatening to kill him if he intimidates Vila again.

Having teleported down, Vila instructs Cally to teleport down also. Cally finds a box with Vila’s teleport bracelet on top, but it turns out to be a booby trap. Tarrant is aghast, having felt sure that he could trust the natives. What’s worse is that he’s intimidated Vila so much that he deliberately left a tracer behind which could have shown the crew his location. Tarrant speculates that Vila may have been taken to an ancient ruin which is translated as the City At The Edge of The World.

Vila is escorted by two natives to the ruin where he meets a woman fighter called Kerril (Carol Hawkins). Kerril takes Vila at gunpoint to meet her boss Bayban (Colin Baker), known in galactic circles as Bayban The Butcher or Bayban The Berserker. Dismissing Kerril and his other assistant Sherm (John J Carney), Bayban explains to Vila why he has been brought here. Vila is to open a door that can’t be penetrated. Behind the door is a world full of wealth and riches which can’t be found on this side – it contains “This world and the next” according to Norl (Valentine Dyall), the leader of the natives. Bayban gives Vila one hour to complete the task.

Vila discovers that the door is actually a force-field which is set to refract light so that it appears solid. Vila uses a low energy probe to penetrate the forcefield at a very slow rate in order to open the door. And after Kerril has got herself ‘cleaned up’ into a mini-dress and new hairdo, a delighted Vila is even more pleased when his plan works.

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After they go through the door, it seals up again. Vila is convinced that he is working against an opponent that set up the whole trap. Despite being thousands of years old, the opponent is – according to Vila – trying to out-think him. Kerril enters a room that contains a teleport, and after Vila hears her shocked scream, teleports too.

They enter a spaceship containing two skeletons. A disembodied voice comes through on the communicator, telling them what has happened. The voice belongs to Vila’s opponent, as he supposed. The voice explains that Kezarn’s economic expansion and personal development have reached their limits, and so, facing barbarism and a new dark age, a solution was discovered. A terminus system was devised so that people could teleport from the world of Kezarn onto the ship which is programmed to seek out a new planet to live on.

However, the voice says that if the ship is still in flight, any occupants will not be able to return to Kezarn, and what’s worse, the air is running out. Resigned to her fate, Kerril takes off her gun belt. Thinking that she’s about to kill herself, Vila moves over to Kerril, as she actually tells him that’s not what she was thinking of – she starts to embrace her new friend…

Avon and Cally teleport down to the planet to find the location, and having forced Bayban’s guards to tell them, Tarrant and Dayna teleport down too. They overpower Bayban’s guards and make for the main control room where Bayban is training a laser cannon on the resealed door. Bayban is held at gunpoint and is appalled to learn that Vila and Kerril succeeded in opening the door. As Bayban is taken away as captive by Dayna, Norl tells the Liberator crew that he is expecting Vila’s return at any minute.Having enjoyed their uninterrupted passion, Vila and Kerril realise that the air hasn’t actually run out – and that they must have actually landed at their destination.

Vila works out that there must be another force-field in order to hide the exit door so that no one would attack the weakest part of the ship. Vila again manages to open the ‘door’ where they both find themselves on a tranquil planet that could be christened Vilaworld or Homeworld. Vila suddenly discovers the crystals that he was meant to get, and takes a reluctant Kerril back to the City.

Vila and Kerril are reunited with Norl and the Liberator crew, who welcome him back, even Tarrant, who makes his apologies to Vila. As the Kezarn inhabitants make their way through the terminus which is now officially open for business, Norl offers a place for both Vila and Kerril. The Liberator crew allow Vila to make a decision as they teleport back up. Vila tells Kerril that being a thief makes him who he is, but also that he likes Kerril more than anyone he has ever met – the only difference being that Kerril loves him.

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Before Vila can reply, Bayban – having escaped from Dayna – bursts in with his gun trained on Vila, Kerril and Norl. Vila urges Kerril and Norl to escape in order to protect them, but before he can follow or even say goodbye, the door reseals itself. Vila teleports up in a hurry as Bayban fires the laser cannon in a foolish bid to open the door again. The laser backfires and destroys not only Bayban, but the whole city.

A morose Vila gives the crystals to his friends, and speculates that he has made the biggest mistake of his life. Orac, however, says that there are far greater mistakes to be made by someone of Vila’s obvious talent for making them. Vila hopes that all of these mistakes have good legs…

ANALYSISBefore the pristine days of DVD, BBC Video brought out the original series on two episode sets, complete with natty artwork and – ironically – a shorter waiting time than the DVDs. City At The Edge Of The World was originally paired with The Harvest Of Kairos, and the contrast between the two episodes’ messages is there for all to see.

Whereas Kairos seemed to assume that women like macho men who like to treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen, City turns this notion on its head by saying that actually women like their men to simply be clever, resourceful and funny – and most importantly, themselves. I asked my wife about this, and she said that the whole macho thing was just a joke made up by she-hacks for shallow glossies, and reminded me again just to be myself. Very good advice.

This applies to Vila, who gets more than he bargained for after very reluctantly agreeing to unknowingly get himself embroiled in the machinations of Bayban The Berserker – according to him, the most feared revolutionary throughout the galaxy. Even Vila looks off colour when he realises what he’s got himself into – opening a door that apparently leads to a world full of wealth and riches. However, things look up for Vila when he meets potential soulmate Kerril.

The relationship between Vila and Kerril is admittedly quick, but it turns out to be rather sweet. Kerril seems to bring out the best in Vila. Rather than the cowardly clown, Vila is shown to be intelligent and – amazingly – brave, complete with a weakness for nice legs. He manages to get through the door, outsmart his ‘opponent’ by working out that the terminal spaceship has already landed at its destination, and ultimately saves Kerril’s life at the cost of a possible relationship.

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This being Blake’s 7, no character is really allowed to have a happy ending, but at least Kerril doesn’t buy a one-way ticket to the clouds as, say, Zeeona in Warlord. And Vila certainly seems to make the most of his time with Kerril, especially on the spaceship where they indulge in one of the most innocent lurve scenes ever – all that happens is that Kerril gives Vila a big hug and that’s it. Still, Mary Whitehouse wouldn’t have liked that sort of thing, you know.

City At The Edge Of The World is undoubtedly Vila’s finest hour – and it’s certainly one of Michael Keating’s finest hours too. Keating brings a perfect mix of humour and serious drama to the table here, and successfully rises to the challenge of having his ‘own’ episode. Kerril, too, is played to perfection by Carol Hawkins, an excellent foil for Keating.

Kerril does seem to undergo a convenient personality change from tough, unwashed rebel through to a meeker glamourpuss who screams at teleports and skeletons – but she still manages to hold her own against Vila’s occasional foot-in-mouth syndrome, such as when he doesn’t realise that he’s taken her for granted after clumsily demanding to go back rather than stay on Vilaworld. Hawkins allows Kerril to be both realistic and likeable, and it’s a shame that she wasn’t added to the Liberator crew.

The other main character to make an impression is Bayban, a man so ruthless he makes Simon Cowell look like Thora Hird by comparison. Colin Baker is excellent as Bayban, and while Doctor Who Number Six wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, Baker’s larger than life performance is perfectly in context here. Both menacing and hilarious – usually at the same time – Baker’s Bayban is one of the most memorable villains in the series.

That said, Bayban is more likeable than Tarrant, who’s behaving like an arse even more than usual. Arrogantly forcing Vila to comply with his badly thought out plan, Tarrant manages to alienate the whole of the crew. Dayna and especially Cally give him the cold shoulder, while Avon threatens him with death.

Avon’s comments about Vila are interesting – the underlying impression is that Avon values Vila as both a part of the team and as a friend, but allows his aloof nature to mask what he feels. Eventually Tarrant does admit his mistake and apologise to Vila – even though he still carries on bullying Vila in future episodes.

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Altogether, City At The Edge Of The World is one of Chris Boucher’s most accomplished scripts – and that’s up against some pretty stiff competition. It’s full of drama, humour and also intelligence. Unlike his earlier Weapon, there’s more of an even mix of talky scenes, intrigue and action. The script is peppered with amusing lines, and threatens to rival his mentor Robert Holmes for laugh-out-loud moments such as Bayban’s outrage against Blake being the number one rebel, his tale about his mum, plus Vila’s inability to communicate with the natives and his reaction to Kerril’s makeover.

Vere Lorrimer’s direction matches the quality of the script, breezing through the action with some memorable images – such as the disorientating teleport, the skeletons on the ship, and Bayban’s final destruction of himself and the city. Vilaworld does look a bit false, but that’s a small glitch, and besides, the evocative sound effects make up for this.

The guest cast are all excellent, and even the lesser roles such as John J Carney’s Sherm and Valentine Dyall’s benevolent Norl (far cry from the nyer-ha-ha-ing of the Black Guardian) are very good.

One of the best tales in Season Three and also in Blake’s 7 as a whole, City At The Edge Of The World stands up to repeated viewing, and provides a memorable 50 minutes for the cowardly thief.

Check out our review of season 3 episode 5 here.

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