PLOT The Scorpio crew meet up with an old friend of Avon’s, Keiller (Roy Kinnear), who is on board pleasure cruiser The Space Princess as purser. Keiller tells Avon about Zerok, the gold planet. On board the Space Princess happens to be a valuable cargo of gold, travelling incognito. Keiller wants Avon and the others to help him steal the gold, using the Scorpio as getaway.
Avon is suspicious of how easy it all seems, with only two plain clothed guards standing over an unmanned crate of gold. Keiller says that it is because the gold needs to be reprocessed on Zerok because in its current state, black gold is worthless. Keiller proposes to go down to Zerok, tamper with the processor in order for the gold to stay of value.
Avon, Soolin and Keiller teleport down to Zerok first and make their way to the processor in a radiation bay. Dayna and Tarrant arrive as backup, but when they get there to meet their friends, they find Keiller unconscious and two unrecognisable bodies, dissolved by the radiation…
In fact, the bodies are two guards that jumped the group. Avon says that the men were not Zerok guards though, because the guards were not standard issue. Avon deduces that someone is using Keiller to get to them. They get back on board the Space Princess which is still loading, and make their way to the purser’s office, where they make two discoveries. One, the pleasure cruise is just a sham. Space Princess does a direct route between Zerok and Earth with drugs in the food to dope the passengers. Two, is Keiller’s record, which shows that he used to belong to the Federation president’s personal staff.
Avon and Soolin teleport back, where Keiller tells them that he was told to contact Avon by an unknown party in order to get black gold by laundering it through the bank on Zerok. Keiller decided to go his own way and get more money. He pleads with Avon to accompany him back to the Space Princess. Avon agrees on the condition that the robbery goes ahead as planned.
On board the Space Princess, Avon and Keiller make their way to the gold, shoot the guard, and despite a lethal booby trap, get the consignment. Dayna is drugged in order for Scorpio to pretend to be a civilian freighter to take her to Zerok as a medical emergency. Dayna’s trolley, now housing the gold, is wheeled into the lift, and despite the alarm being raised, they manage to get the gold on board the Scorpio which has docked with the cruiser.
Avon demands 10 billion credits, as Keiller prepares to rendezvous with his paymasters on Beta 5. On the planet’s surface, a party of black-clad figures drives towards them. The leader, of course, is Servalan.
Avon realises that Keiller worked for Servalan, and that Keiller’s record was left there deliberately for him to find. Servalan planned every move, and knew that Keiller would disobey her. But with a case of money, Avon, Tarrant, Dayna and Soolin teleport back up to Scorpio. Driving off with the gold, Servalan kills Keiller, who had been abandoned by Avon for being too untrustworthy.
Unfortunately, Orac has bad news for the crew. Zerok has acceded to the Federation, meaning that the black gold will be of use to Servalan, who has made a good profit. What’s worse is that the Federation system will take over Zerok, meaning that all Zerok bank notes will be invalid in a week, and that any private transactions will be illegal. An angry crew realise that they have risked their lives for nothing, only to make Servalan rich. Avon laughs as he realises the terrible irony of the situation…
ANALYSIS Money. It’s the root of all evil, as the old cliché goes. Just look at the greedy bank bosses, whose salaries would be enough to bank me for the next 520 lifetimes. The latest get-rich scheme for Avon and co, however, inevitably brings about a whole ton of misery.
In theory, the Scorpio crew need the money urgently. With Liberator gone, they probably have as much cash as a man that’s just bet on Eddie The Eagle gaining victory in the next Winter Olympics. And god knows they’ve gone through enough of Dorian’s expensive stash of plonk, which could have been of value to any self-respecting wine connoisseur.
Unfortunately, they picked the wrong man in their get-rich plan. Or rather, the wrong man picked them. Keiller might as well have a cartoon arrow above his head saying I Can’t Be Trusted. I’m surprised that Keiller and Avon are friends, despite their mutual shiftiness, although Keiller takes great pains to stress this. “Old friend” is said by Keiller almost as many times as he says “Pretty one” to an unimpressed Soolin. Roy Kinnear’s an inspired bit of casting though, and brings much to the character of Keiller, resulting in a combination of Jack The Lad shiftiness, humour and even vulnerability towards the end.
Gold is a successful take on the traditional bank heist movie, but throws in its own set of twists and turns into the ring. One of the great things about the episode is that you’re never sure of who you can trust. Its never made crystal clear until the end whose side Keiller is on, although in retrospect, its blatantly obvious that he was in cahoots with Servalan all along. Keiller’s record (a photocopier with a few bits of added sci-fi bling stuck on top) could have been a red herring, but of course, its a dead giveaway. But thanks to Colin Davis’ clever script and Kinnear’s nuanced performance, Keiller’s motives and allegiance are more ambiguous.
On the subject of I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Servalan, it’s a shame that the events of Sand have been forgotten – apart from the brief moment at the end, which looks like it was recorded as an afterthought (I think it was recorded in the next studio session). Intriguingly, this is the only time that Avon confronts Servalan properly (the camp nonsense of the Assassin auction notwithstanding). It would have been nice to see a hint of the more contrite Servalan we saw in Sand, but it’s back to the one-dimensional panto camp.
Apart from this predictable reveal, Gold is prime Blake, with fast, pacy action and equally snappy lines for all the cast. Brian Lighthill treats the episode very much as a fast paced caper with lots of well-executed action sequences and crash-bang zoom-ins. The scenes on the Space Princess are particularly enjoyable, with the cheesy muzak and décor, and doped to the eyeballs guests. Steven Pacey is especially good when Tarrant pretends to be drugged. Check out Avon’s reaction to the dolly bird in the blue, though, which is about as subtle as a gaggle of beer swilling lads attempting the art of seduction on a Club 18-30 holiday.
Poor old Avon. His leadership (and grip on sanity) are starting to get frayed around the edges. Not only does he lead his crew on a wild goose chase that nearly kills them, he also allows Servalan a luxury lifestyle of champagne and oysters. His unhinged laughter at the end has had a mixed reaction, but I think Paul Darrow judges it perfectly, with clenched fist and mad eyes. Avon’s been let down so many times now, that his leadership is resulting in some bad choices (Incidentally, Darrow’s delivery of “So. What’s the SNNNNAGGGGGG Keiller?” is hilarious).
And so begins a downward spiral for the Scorpio crew as friendships, bases, alliances and even lives are lost in the next three episodes. Quality-wise, though, it’s uphill all the way, with some first class episodes to come. Taken on its own, Gold is clever, action packed, and with a real sting in the tail. Worth its weight in – er – gold.
Check out our review of season 4 episode 9 here.