Blake’s 7 series 3 episode 7 – Children Of Auron

Avon's got a big surprise coming soon during his noble revenge mission. Meanwhile, the drinks are on Servalan...

Servalan kindly making us a drink...

THE PLOTServalan is on the trail of a lone patrol ship from Auron, and instructs her Lackey Of The Week #1 Deral (Rio Fanning) to disable it with ionic beams in order to take the pilot (Michael Troughton) alive. The pilot is brought onto Servalan’s control deck, where he is refreshed with what he thinks is water – in fact it has been spiked with disease pathogens. Servalan allows the pilot to leave, but when he reaches Auron, his body breaks out in blisters, and succumbs to the disease – just as Auron control’s Patar (Jack McKenzie) has instructed CA1 (Ronald Leigh Hunt) and CA2 (Beth Harris) to welcome him in the docking bay.

The epidemic begins in earnest – part of Servalan’s plan to rebuild the Federation. En route to Earth where Avon wishes to kill the man that murdered his lover Anna Grant, Cally picks up a telepathic distress signal from her twin sister Zelda (Jan Chappell) that her race is dying from the disease unleashed by Servalan. Tarrant manages to persuade a reluctant Avon to change course for Auron.

Servalan explains to Deral that Auron contains a bio-replication plant, a synthesised placenta unit that can produce a batch of identical siblings. Servalan wishes to use this as a bonus in addition to capturing the Liberator. She instructs her Lackey Of The Week #2 Ginka (Ric Young) to dock her ship on Auron where she claims to offer help. Clinician Franton (Sarah Atkinson) is chosen by Servalan as the guinea pig (the daughter of the original expert on bio-replication).

She is placed in the machine on Servalan’s ship, and undergoes a process that wipes out the disease. A delighted Franton thanks Servalan for the treatment, but the snag is that only six people can be treated at a time, because the therapy unit is linked into each individual’s tissue pattern.

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As payment, Servalan demands that Franton allows her to use a gestation unit. Franton reluctantly obliges, and takes a sample of her blood for her genetic print. A shifty looking Deral looks closer at the samples…

In the meantime, Cally, Avon and Tarrant have teleported down to Auron, having sent up Patar with Dayna to be treated.

However, they are ambushed by Ginka, who holds them hostage along with CA1 and CA2. Servalan and Deral enter, and start to bargain for the Liberator with Vila. Deral is sent up to the ship in order to take command, but is tricked by Dayna, and becomes a hostage himself.

Servalan decides to return to her ship with Ginka. Franton’s timely entrance, however, allows Avon and Tarrant to overpower the guards. A furious Servalan learns of this and orders Ginka to open fire on the control unit, which explodes in a ball of flame, killing countless lives.

Franton has taken Avon, Cally and Tarrant to the gestation unit because Servalan will not open fire there with her siblings lying dormant there. Cally is reunited with Zelda, while they all prepare to teleport back up to the ship with the Auron cells.

Ginka tricks Servalan into thinking that Deral swapped her cells for his, and convinced by this, Servalan gives the order to fire on the gestation unit. Inside the unit, everyone is preparing for teleport when they receive the alarm. Zelda takes off her bracelet at the last minute as the others teleport out, in a foolish bid to save Servalan’s ‘children’. She is too late though, and as the unit explodes, a devastated Cally mentally hears Zelda’s last piercing screams.

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Servalan mentally feels the deaths of her ‘children’, and crushed, summons Ginka to the bridge, where she tells him that she knows that the cells were hers, not Deral’s as she felt them die. Servalan activates a device that fries Ginka’s body beyond recognition. Vila teleports a terrified Deral back to Servalan, where he suffers the same fate as Ginka.

With Cally resting, Avon has set the Liberator to go to Kaarn, an uninhabited Earth-type planet that is perfect for Franton and Patar to set up a new world there with an ever-growing set of ‘children’ – although the prospect of a 5000-strong nursery would presumably be too much for Cally…

ANALYSISChildren Of Auron isn’t an episode that readily springs to mind when discussing the merits of season three. What with City At The Edge Of The World, Rumours Of Death and Terminal sitting pretty, Children Of Auron tends to be overlooked in favour of these classics. Pity, since Children Of Auron stands up in its own right as a fast paced, gripping action adventure.

After season two’s Voice From The Past wasn’t exactly well received, Roger Parkes’ second script for the show is fortunately much better. He’ s still done his research, with mentions of Time Squad (Saurian Major) and Weapon (The death of the Clonemasters) thrown into the mix.

The ambiguous relationship between Avon and Cally is also spotlighted here, when in the aftermath of an argument, Cally snidely asks a rhetorical question about not returning to Auron: “Why do you think I’ve never gone back? Affection for HIM?” Avon looks slightly taken aback, but matters won’t reach a head between the two until Sarcophagus.

Parkes has also managed to cut down on the dreadful dialogue that hampered Voice. There’s only the odd example here, most of which is handed to curmudgeonly old CA1, whose clichéd moaning about Cally would be more at home in Grumpy Old Men than in Blake’s 7.

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Whereas Jan Chappell was only used for teleport operation in season two, here she’s a lot more involved in the stories, and Children Of Auron is no exception. Here, she also plays Cally’s identical twin sister Zelda, a hoary old plot device that’s still quite well-used here.

Zelda is a lot calmer, if not quite as rational as Cally – she’s prepared to help save the lives of Servalan’s children, even though Servalan has just decimated most of the Auron population. Chappell gives a good performance as both Cally and Zelda – in fact the only criticism I have is that Zelda isn’t really given enough to do in the plot, and only seems to function as Franton’s second banana.

Children Of Auron is also very much Servalan’s story. Her motivations are again, slightly far-fetched and all over the shop. Going to the extreme of wiping out the Auron race is just a trifle excessive in getting her hands on the Liberator (even Deral points this out), and for some reason, Servalan also wants kids.

The thought of mini-Servalans is a scary thought – imagine them picking on all the other kids at outer space schools, and flushing innocent pupils’ heads down the toilet. Alas, though, this isn’t to be, after she foolishly believes Ginka’s wildly OTT tale that Deral swapped her cells for his. Jacqueline Pearce is excellent in this story, and has considerably toned down the camp that marred her Harvest Of Kairos performance.

In particular, the scene in which she mentally senses the deaths of her children is very well done, and it’s notable that from now on, Servalan tends to wear black – apparently at the request of Pearce as a sign of mourning for her character.

Still, Servalan’s only got herself to blame if she hires useless clots like Deral and Ginka. Both seem hell-bent on point scoring between each other rather than getting a good job done. Ginka’s got a chip on his shoulder because Deral got promoted above him, simply because he was more in the know amongst the Federation big shots.

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It’s surprising that the trigger-happy Ginka wasn’t chosen, since he’s just as ruthless as Servalan – he’s the sort of sneak that would tell tales to the boss in order to get promotion. Still, he manages to fall on his own sword when even he goes too far by tricking Servalan at the conclusion, resulting in his grisly demise (which makes great use of video effects to suggest that he’s been fried or burned alive).

As for Deral, it’s hard to believe that this wet blanket could even set foot inside the Federation, never mind become Servalan’s Lackey Of The Week. A cross between Ringo Starr and the shorter of the Chuckle Brothers, Deral is an ineffectual presence, always getting shouted down by Servalan and managing to bungle a simple task like capturing only two Liberator crewmembers – one of whom is Vila.

Even his final protests before he gets fried are half-arsed. That said, both Ric Young and Rio Fanning are very good as Ginka and Deral, it’s just that their characters wouldn’t realistically pass muster in a call-centre, never mind the Federation.

One of the reasons why Children Of Auron works well is the fantastic direction from Andrew Morgan, who makes his lone contribution to the series. He keeps the action coming thick and fast, and uses some inspired shots like Ginka’s death, the cross fading, out of focus close ups of Cally’s telepathy and excellent location filming.

Dudley Simpson also provides one of his best scores for the season, perfectly in tune with the action unfolding on the screen. The deaths are quite hard hitting, especially Michael Troughton’s pilot, and it’s another throwback to the gritty days of season one. After all, how many people die by the conclusion?

Which does make the cheesy laughter at the end look totally off-beam. Not that Scooby Doo-style laughter works anyway; just look at the end of Breakdown for example. But it’s kind of like watching a serious news report where the newsreader breaks off halfway through to tell a dirty joke and break wind live on air. Just wrong.

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Despite that though, I like Children Of Auron a lot. Not the most demanding of plots, but it does what it sets out to do very well indeed – tell a fast paced, gripping story, and tell it in style. Another winner from what’s turning out to be a strong season.

Check out our review of season 3 episode 5 here.

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