Blake’s 7 series 4 episode 13 – Blake

Our four-season reviews of Blake's 7 finally come to an end on, er, a bit of a bleak note...

Blake's 7 season four.

PLOT As the Scorpio leaves Xenon, Avon orders the base destroyed. Dayna speculates that Zukan may not have told the Federation about its location, but Avon disagrees, saying that one of the other delegates would have done eventually. Instead of a ‘strategic withdrawal’ though, Avon now claims that he has found a new figurehead. Despite Avon’s unusual coyness about the identity of this leader of rebels, Vila works out that he has found their old leader Blake.

Dayna and Tarrant are sceptical, considering that he’s meant to be dead and that the last time they looked for Blake, it turned out to be a trap. Orac, however, says that the chain of cause and effect throughout the galaxy amounts to Blake’s trail ending on the planet Gauda Prime. Soolin is not happy at this news, since it is her home planet, where her family were killed. Gauda Prime was declared Open Planet status by the Federation, meaning that there is no law on the planet. A draw for all crooks and killers, Gauda Prime is, however, to revert back to legal status after its inhabitants have lodged an official request.

Down on Gauda Prime, Blake himself is tracking his prey. Now apparently a bounty hunter with a scar down one eye, Blake traps his prey Arlen (Sasha Mitchell) who has a high price on her head. Arlen is shot in the leg by other bounty hunters, who are in turn, killed by Blake. Blake forces Arlen to walk to his flyer.

While en route to Gauda Prime, Scorpio comes under attack by two gunships. Avon tells Tarrant to powerdive the atmosphere to fake being out of control. Although the ploy works and the ships back off, a badly damaged Scorpio really is out of control. Now rapidly approaching Gauda Prime, Vila, Dayna and Soolin teleport down. Avon follows with Orac and tells Tarrant to come with him. However, Slave (which would have taken over the flight controls) has been damaged too, and so Tarrant elects to pilot the Scorpio in order for Avon to teleport down. Avon does so in the nick of time as the Scorpio crash lands, sending a screaming Tarrant flying into the debris.

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Blake takes Arlen to his base where, in fact, he plans to recruit her to his cause of rebellion against the Federation. One of his recruits Klyn (Janet Lees Price) informs Blake that a planet hopper has crash-landed in Plantation 5. As his second in command Deva (David Collings) interrogates Arlen, Blake, now masquerading as a law enforcement officer, goes to investigate the wreckage of the ship. Deva, however, is worried that a representative from the Federation High Council could arrive at any minute.

Vila, Soolin and Dayna hide in a shack in the woods. While Vila dozes off though, two bounty hunters enter the shack and attack them. Before the hunters can kill them though, Avon enters and shoots them dead. Now in possession of their flyer, Avon proposes to follow another flyer which has put down nearby. A suspicious Vila asks where Tarrant is.

Injured from the crash, Tarrant arrives to find Blake rescuing him from the wreckage, which has caused Slave to close down for good. Unaware of Blake’s identity, Tarrant flies back with him to base on a random programme. He suddenly gets suspicious though when Blake tells him that the programme was learnt from a smuggler called Jenna, who blew both a squadron of gunships and herself up in the process.

Avon and his party follow Blake in their newly acquired flyer and make their way into the landing silo.

Blake tests Tarrant by pretending that he has captured him. Klyn informs Blake that another flyer has landed in the silo, and as Blake orders them to be allowed through, a horrified Tarrant wonders what happened to him. As Arlen enters, Tarrant escapes, but Blake is satisfied that he has passed his test. He is confident that when Tarrant knows the full story, he will join them. Deva is not convinced though and angrily tells Blake to drop both the tests and the bounty hunter routine. Although Blake finds it difficult to trust people, he implores Deva not to worry.

Tarrant makes his way into the main control room, where he is reunited with Avon, Vila, Dayna and Soolin. As the alarm sounds, Avon shoots Klyn just as Blake enters.

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Tarrant tells Avon that Blake has sold them out to the Federation. Misunderstanding the whole situation, a horrified Avon confronts his old friend at gunpoint. Blake pleads with Avon to listen to him, saying that Tarrant doesn’t understand. But when Blake says that he set the whole thing up, Avon misinterprets this, and as he tries to reason with him further, Avon shoots his friend in the chest three times. Blake, mortally wounded, whispers “Oh Avon…” sadly, but collapses dead before he can finish.

As a shocked Avon slowly realises his folly, Arlen reveals that she is a Federation officer and that the base is surrounded by troops. Deva enters the chaos and is shot dead by Arlen. Having been ordered to drop her weapon, Dayna attempts to retrieve it, but is shot by Arlen. Vila knocks Arlen out cold and grabs the weapon, but he too is shot by entering Federation troopers. Soolin and Tarrant are shot next, and with only Avon left standing, the troopers trap him in a circle.

Standing over the body of Blake, Avon slowly raises his gun and gives one last smile as shots ring out…

ANALYSIS Ho ho ho. Seasons come and seasons go, but hey, we all love Christmas, right?

Well, no. The season to be jolly is nearly with us yet again, bringing with it the usual onslaught of forced jollity, sprouts and Stop The Bloody Cavalry. Yes, please stop.

Maybe Chris Boucher felt the same about Christmas when he put pen to paper for the last ever Blake¹s 7 episode. He’s gone on record as saying that in 1981, he was briefly known as the man that killed Christmas, as an army of kids bawled into their Christmas stockings after Avon, Blake and the others were mercilessly gunned down. Even by Blake’s 7 cynical standards, this is as bleak as it gets. It’s like Father Christmas stealing all the kiddies’ presents, downing a bottle of whisky and staggering off swearing into the distance.

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Trying to pick apart ‘Blake’ in so many words is a tough one, since there are so many plot strands and themes at work, that it’d take until next summer to plough through them all. Of course, one of the most striking aspects is the welcome return of Gareth Thomas as Blake. No longer the freedom fighting boy scout of season one, Blake has morphed into a paranoid, bitter and slightly scary character complete with Travis-style injury.

A lot has evidently happened to Blake. Jenna has bitten the dust (if you believe Blake’s story), while his enigmatic reply to Tarrant’s question of what happened to him suggests that he endured great trauma, both physically and mentally. Apparently, Gareth Thomas has said that he always wanted to play Blake this way. Thomas is as superb as ever, and this is probably his best performance in the role, adding a whole darker dimension to his character.

Blake’s lack of trust is, in his eyes -­ or eye -­ some sort of comfort blanket, but it actually proves to be his downfall. Much like Avon and Tarrant, whose combined lack of trust makes a bad situation into a 1000-ton disaster. Instead of accepting Tarrant at face value, Blake decides to play twisted mind games with him.

This results in Tarrant misreading the whole situation, which in turn leads to an already paranoid Avon shooting first and not asking questions later. You could argue that Blake’s been betrayed by as many people as Avon, the only difference being that he has clawed his way back from the wreckage with a base and ‘the beginnings of an army’. Avon, on the other hand, has just lost his base, his ship and his alliance, and so Blake’s apparent betrayal was the final straw.

Much like ‘Warlord’, ‘Blake’ is a tale of how good intentions go sour faster than a glass of milk on a patio in a scorching heat wave. The initial excitement of finding Blake is quickly dispelled as the Scorpio is badly damaged by two enigmatic gunships (where did they come from, by the way?)

Both Scorpio and Slave are destroyed in scenes reminiscent of ‘Terminal’ (and identical in the case of a screaming Tarrant falling off a large chunk of moving debris -­ remember Kostos?). The destruction scenes are brilliantly done, although Slave’s last bow is nowhere near as effective as Zen’s, since Slave’s Dick Van Dyke impersonations were a bit annoying.

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Mary Ridge adds much to Boucher’s finely crafted script, and creates a doomy, funereal atmosphere that permeates the whole episode. What is it with 1981 and depressing sci-fi? Kids, at the time, would have been reminded of Tom Baker’s fun-free swansong ‘Logopolis’ in ‘The Five Faces Of Doctor Who’ three weeks before Blake and the others joined the 4th Doctor in the Great 70s Sci-Fi Convention In The Sky. Still, Christmas 2009 looks set to be an equally doomy one for sc-fi fans, if the rather good trailer for David Tennant’s Doctor Who swansong, ‘The End Of Time’, is anything to go by.

The original good intentions are completely shattered in the last five minutes during the memorably grim finale. Blake’s death was perhaps inevitable, if more bloody than Mary Ridge imagined it -­ the deaths of the others were less predictable, but there’s no denying that those final scenes are hugely effective. The slow-motion shots work perfectly, as does Avon’s final freeze-frame smile into the camera.

However, there has been speculation that the show still could have returned. Countless theories exist in which Avon’s lot were only stunned. Or that Avon and Vila were injured but lived to fight another day. Or that Avon and Blake were in cahoots all along and that the whole set-up was an elaborate decoy. Or that… well, you get the picture.

Truth be told, it was right to end Blake’s 7 there. You can¹t really kill off all the main characters and conveniently bring them back to life, since the programme’s credibility is affected as a result -­ not mentioning any names (Cough) Buffy! (Cough). And if Blake’s 7 were to carry on, its eventual finale would probably have been weaker, since you can’t raise the stakes any higher than the ‘Blake’ episode.

‘Blake’ itself is hard to fault. The only blemish is Sasha Mitchell’s performance as Arlen, which is so wooden that she could blend into the Gauda Prime forest and no one would bat an eyelid. Shame that Arlen couldn’t have ripped off her face Master-style to reveal Servalan, but maybe that would have been too predictable.

Apart from Mitchell, all the others are excellent and give it their best. Paul Darrow, in particular, is brilliant as Avon, especially in the climatic scenes. His facial expressions as he realises what he’s done are perfectly acted and very convincing. The other regulars are very good and it’s nice to see Soolin and Tarrant get some good material. Soolin gets a bit more back-story (typically at the last minute), while Tarrant does a neat face turn from his actions in ‘Dawn Of The Gods’, in which he tells Avon to go rather than stay (and of course Avon’s actions here are different from ‘Dawn’ in which he tried to escape).

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Steven Pacey does very well as Tarrant as he gets a belated chance to get his teeth into much more material than usual. Even lesser parts are very well acted, including Mrs Paul Darrow, Janet Lees Price as Klyn, and David Collings, excellent as ever as the sub-Avon, Deva (he even says “Well now”).

Mary Ridge’s direction is top flight throughout. Even small touches such as the neat cross-fade from Avon¹s side profile to Blake¹s are well thought out and shot. The moody location work on Gauda Prime is suitably atmospheric, while the frenzied scenes both on the destructing Scorpio and in the final shootout are captured perfectly.

So that’s that. Blake¹s 7 faded away from the public consciousness, bar a couple of repeat seasons, audio spin-offs and countless DVD and video releases. There have been tenuous plans to bring the show back (hey, it worked for Doctor Who) -­ whether or not, some TV company actually does is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure they’ll replace the things on strings with state-of-the-art visual effects.

What Blake’s 7 lacked in budget though, it made up for in writing and acting. With the best available talents in each field, it’s not surprising that the programme is still well remembered 28 years after it finished.

Just a quick set of thank yous: to those at Den Of Geek that gave me the gig in the first place; to those who took the trouble to read my waffle and give positive feedback; and to my wife, who provided lots of support and feedback. That’s all folks!

Check out our review of season 4 episode 12 here.

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