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Blake's 7: Powerplay

There's an awkwardness for me in these first few episodes of series three. On the one hand, I've always thought that there are too many characters in Blake's 7, with the obvious consequence that half of them never have anything to do - and here we are, in the opening episodes of the new series, acquiring two more. On the face of it this is a bad idea; and yet they're favourites of mine, so I can't really complain. They shouldn't have brought in any more people, and they should have left the title as erroneous as it's been most of the way along. And yet...

The last episode ended with Avon and Dayna teleporting aboard the Liberator, to find it in the hands of the Federation; or, rather, a lone group of stragglers who barely survived the war. Leading them is Captain Del Tarrant, much to the irritation of the previous CO, Section Leader Clegg. Tarrant swaggers about the decks like a pirate, and for a very good reason - he is a pirate. A pirate, a smuggler, a mercenary, and also a deserter from the Federation. He's currently hiding in plain sight in a 'borrowed' uniform, after the Andromedans blew his ship up. You can just see Tarrant spotting an intergalactic space battle going on, and figuring why the hell not.

I like Tarrant (although in this I am practically alone). Like Dayna, he arrives fully formed, with a past, and with a character that's been properly thought out in advance. He's more of a personality in five minutes than poor Cally has ever had the chance to be, and in all honesty everybody else from the old crew as well, save for Avon. Series three has had far more love lavished upon it than one and two ever did. Somebody has stopped to think about the consequences of the Andromedan War, and of what the Federation will look like now that it's broken. It's a new policy that's paid off for our new crew members especially. Anyway, Avon and Dayna struggle to pretend that they don't have a clue what the Liberator is; Tarrant lurks the corridors, dispatching Federation troops with gay abandon; and Section Leader Clegg growls ferociously at everything that moves. Meanwhile, with the whole of space to choose from, Vila and Cally manage to get rescued by the same people, despite abandoning ship in different directions. This does make collecting them a whole lot quicker; but given that their rescuers turn out to be organ harvesters looking for humans to chop into tiny pieces, they might have hoped for a little more inconvenience.

Anyway. Pictures.

Avon is confronted aboard the Liberator by the curly king of swagger. Also by Mr Bronson, which is presumably less of a surprise, since he turns up everywhere.

Mr Bronson and Tarrant attempt to make the Liberator work for them, but Zen is not interested in obeying their commands. He's only interested in Vila's distress calls.

Vila is stuck upon the planet Chenga, with a broken arm. Jenna has already reported that she's fine, and on a hospital ship wandering off somewhere. She will consquently not be bothering to come back because... no idea. Blake reports that he's also fine, and on his way somewhere else, because... also no idea. Neither will be bothering to return because... oh, who cares. Anyway, Vila would like to be picked up please.

A hospital ship from the planet Chenga, looking endearingly like Jimbo from Jimbo & The Jet Set.

Cally is aboard, being treated for minor burns. She's on her way to the planet Chenga, to be chopped up into tiny pieces by the populace (although they haven't bothered to tell her that part yet)

Meanwhile, Avon and Dayna are lurking beneath the floorboards of the Liberator. Actually they're probably not floorboards as such, are they. We'll just assume that they're metaphorical floorboards. Anyway, Clegg and co wanted them to talk to Zen, to see if he recognised their voiceprints. Presumably escaping and hiding under the floor is a bit less incriminating? Or probably not, but still.

I suppose they are sort of like floorboards.

Elsewhere, Tarrant and Clegg are glaring at each other a lot. It's their favourite thing.

And back on the planet Chenga, Vila has been 'rescued' by two locals, who pamper him gently, and cart him off to the city to be chopped up into tiny pieces. They also don't bother telling him about that bit. You can tell they've had practice.

Avon has decided that it's his ship, damn it, and he's not going to sit back and let some Federation soldiers run off with it. Especially since there technically isn't a Federation anymore, so where do they get off trying to tell the universe what to do.

It's a nice thought, but it lasts approximately 2.8 seconds before he's captured again. This time, however, Tarrant explains a few things. Namely how he figured out who Avon was right at the start of the episode (technically the end of the last one), and has been trying to help him all along. It's the start of a beautiful friendship. Or that last bit could be a blatant lie. Thoughtfully, in order to help move the plot along, Tarrant explains all of this right in front of one the Federation troopers, who promptly escapes to report the lot to Mr Bronson/Section Leader Clegg.

Meanwhile, Dayna has helpfully got herself captured, which is a bit of a come down from last week, when she was ably slaughtering everybody who looked at her a bit funny. Avon hands Tarrant over to Clegg as ransom, before the three of them turn the tables.

And Dayna makes up for getting captured by neatly throttling Mr Bronson, without even touching his throat. That's an impressive killer instinct that she's got there.

Avon and Tarrant are impressed too.

Later, having saved Vila and Cally in precisely the nick of time, Avon has Zen accept Dayna and Tarrant as new members of the crew. Which seems a bit sudden, quite frankly. Dayna has pretty much proved herself, but Tarrant has just swaggered on board, announced himself to be a pirate and a smuggler and everything else that they made great movies about in the 1950s, and why am I arguing, he's my favourite character. Anyway, for some reason Avon lets him join. Presumably he actively needs a tall, curly, big head to argue violently with every episode. I suppose we all have our foibles.

So it's business as usual then. Sort of. Blake's gone, the Federation's gone, Vila is clearly wildly under-impressed to be back on board and not chopped into tiny pieces. That's not really business as usual at all, is it, sorry. Actually the bit about Vila pretty much is.

And the newbies are flirting. Behave yourselves and go fight something. That's what you're here for.

Well, that and the swaggering, obviously. Tarrant's awesome at that.


( 12 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Oct. 26th, 2012 03:39 am (UTC)
I'd be more convinced by Tarrant's development if they could have decided if he were an old, seasoned veteran or a brash young nobody.
Oct. 26th, 2012 07:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Tarrant...
He's a brash young veteran. The academy would be sure to take them young, and he'd have seen a bit of action with the Federation, before deciding he didn't like it and going independent. He has experience, but not enough to smooth the rough edges. Basically Tarrant is a bit of a peacock. He wants people to look upon him as a swashbuckling hero, whether he is one or not (deciding that bit is probably up to the viewer). His character makes a lot more sense to me than most of the others. Goodness knows they all suffer to some degree from inconsistent writing, though.
Oct. 27th, 2012 08:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Tarrant...
Yeah, he has several early bits where he talks about being old "You'll be old too, someday." & suchlike.

He also varies wildly between "We have to save them!" and "Who cares if they kill Villa?"
Oct. 27th, 2012 10:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Tarrant...
He's talking to Dayna when he makes that comment about growing old, though. It's fairly well established that she's very young. Remember the episode with Colin Baker as Bayban the incompetent terrorist? There's a whole section of dialogue where Bayban congratulates Avon, saying that he could be the man who killed Bayban, and Cally jumps in with "Better yet, the woman who killed him", and then Dayna says "Or better still, the girl." He's not seriously saying that he's old; just older than her.

I don't remember him seriously saying that he doesn't care about Vila. Generally only Avon is that openly cold. Tarrant does put Vila in danger now and again, usually without realising the seriousness of a situation. He always tries to make up for it though. It's poor Vila himself who really suffers from erratic characterisation. They never could make up their minds who he was supposed to be.
Oct. 28th, 2012 03:20 am (UTC)
Now that is true. There is one version of Vila I like very much: The one who is pretending to be stupid because it is a survival skill, then there is the one who really *is* stupid. He's not so much fun.
Oct. 29th, 2012 10:43 am (UTC)
d Cally jumps in with "Better yet, the woman who killed him", and then Dayna says "Or better still, the girl." He's not seriously saying that he's old; just older than her.

I remember the scene--but it was also odd. Dayna doesn't strike me as that much younger than Cally, really, and not as someone who would call herself a "girl," especially not in a combat situation.

Oct. 30th, 2012 01:33 am (UTC)
Re: Dayna
Yes, I agree. That episode isn't one of the better ones, though. There's some odd writing all round. I think the fact that Josette Simon was twenty-one was an influence, but whilst Dayna certainly was younger than the others, I don't think she would speak of herself in such terms. What young person does?!
Oct. 27th, 2012 04:36 am (UTC)
I also like Tarrant (although naturally not as much as Avon :D).

Presumably he actively needs a tall, curly, big head to argue violently with every episode.
You know he does :)
Oct. 27th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
I always seem to forget just how cool Avon is until I start watching the show again. I don't like him much in series four, though. I think they changed him too much.
Oct. 30th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
Season 4
It's been a long time since I watched Season 4, but as I recall, everyone lost definition by then. The writers must have stopped talking to one another, or resorted to Chinese whispers for communication purposes.
Nov. 1st, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
Re: Season 4
That's a pretty fair assessment. The crew seemed strangely pacified, for the most part. Everybody accepted Avon as leader, with no sign of the arguments that there had always been in the past. Even Tarrant stopped arguing. It didn't help that Cally was replaced by Soolin. I think that Soolin could have been excellent, but Glynis Barber was given nothing to work with, which left the character as little but a shadow. She didn't so much lose definition as have none of it to begin with. There's a lot to enjoy still, but something is definitely missing.
Nov. 2nd, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, poor Soolin. She had potential, in theory, but I don't think the ever even bothered to give her a backstory until the day she died.
( 12 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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