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Blake's 7: Cygnus Alpha

In episode three, Blake, Avon and Jenna are getting to know the Liberator, whilst their former prison ship winds its weary way onwards to Cygnus Alpha. The Liberator is full of surprises, offering up weapons, jewels, super-super-super speed capabilities - and, best of all, arch mega-computer Zen. Practically a match for Avon in terms of his superiority complex, Zen apparently needs for the ship to have a crew, but has precious little use for anybody beyond that. He's certainly not remotely shy about letting that show. One of the things I've always liked about this series is how they made the computers characters in their own right, just as much as the humans. In Zen's case, it certainly adds an extra dimension to scenes set on the bridge.

I love watching Blake and co as they find their way about the Liberator. Blake assumes that he's going to be in charge. Avon isn't remotely interested in obeying him, but Blake just expects him to do as he's told anyway. Meanwhile Avon has every intention of taking the ship, and sees no reason why he should pretend otherwise. Blake wants to fight the Federation; Avon wants to be a pirate. Avon, as usual, is the smarter one of the two. I'm not quite sure why he doesn't just shoot Blake. I assume it's because he's not the killing type, but it's almost as though he enjoys having somebody around who irritates him.

While the runaways and their super-ship gallivant about the place getting to know each other better, Vila, Gan and the other criminals are dumped down on Cygnus Alpha and left to get on with it. They find themselves on a miserable, desolate world. Vila's still being an irritating twit, but fortunately not quite as twittish as he was in episode two. I'm still at the wanting to shoot him stage, though. So's half the cast, by the look of things. Anyway, Cygnus Alpha turns out to be a mad colony of religious maniacs, all worshipping Brian Blessed. Which is nice, as there's few better people to choose if you want a bombastic, loony godhead. All in all, it's pretty much the last place you'd want to find yourself stranded but, armed with a shiny new teleport bracelet, it's apparently exactly the place where Blake wants to strand himself. He's decided that he's going to be a grand leader of men, recruiting himself an army of criminals, and is perfectly happy about using an experimental teleportation system to help him achieve that. An experimental teleportation system being operated by a man who is consistently displaying every intention of getting rid of him. Basically Blake is a dangerously single-minded nutcase. Avon's gradual realisation of that forms the backbone of their continuing interaction.

It's a lovely episode, this. Brian Blessed overacts ridiculously (if entertainingly), and the main plot - that of having Blake buzz down to Cygnus Alpha and collect himself a crew - is pretty minimal. It's the embellishments that make it all worthwhile. Most particularly, it's Blake, Avon and Jenna interacting with each other. Avon is so gloriously self-serving, and so entertainingly shameless about it. Jenna rather lets the side down by being only slightly untrustworthy, but her almost-willingness to abandon Blake to his fate, after discovering a room full of riches aboard the Liberator, is a nice indication of the smuggler she supposedly once was. Jenna is great when she's being ruthless, and I wish we'd seen more of her that way. Meanwhile, Blake is showing early signs of the obsessive madman he's to become. There's not a hero amongst them, and it's really rather refreshing. We're still missing a proper antagonist, though. That of course is still to come.

If there's a downside, it's in the chronology. It was clearly stated that Earth to Cygnus Alpha was an eight month journey. It was also clearly stated that they'd been travelling for four months when the Liberator came along. So how come the prisoners are arriving at Cygnus Alpha when Blake and co have only just got aboard the Liberator? Four months seem to have disappeared somewhere. It's a shame, because everything else seems to have been so well thought out.


Zen - or his "visual reference point", at any rate.

The Liberator armoury.

Avon immediately decides to put a new gun to good use, but Blake just ignores him. Spoilsport.

The teleport bracelets. A nice change to the usual teleportation business, since if you lose one planetside, you can't be retrieved.

Blake goes down to Cygnus Alpha. He then meets some locals, panics spectacularly, and spends five minutes hurtling left and right like a startled rabbit. It's a bit of a surprise from someone who's usually so full of himself.

Avon and Jenna ponder riches, and whether or not to run away and leave Blake to his fate.

Vila and Gan mooch about on the surface of Cygnus Alpha, with yet another potential Sevener who doesn't manage to survive the recruitment process.

Soon they meet one of the local residents. This is what happens to people who refuse to worship Brian Blessed.

Seems fair enough.

Brian Blessed confronts Blake, in typically loud and loony fashion.

Having found somebody as self-obsessed as he is, Blake is stuck at an impasse. And in a chair.

Scuffles! Yes, I know. I suck at screencapping fighty bits.

Brian Blessed is accidentally zapped aboard the Liberator along with Blake, Vila and Gan.

Only to get zapped straight back out again, into space, where he promptly explodes. Not terribly godly, but there you go.

Blake points out that now they have a crew, they can think about fighting the Federation. Avon is speechless with delight.

So at close of play, we're up to Blake's 5. Several appointments yet to come, then.


( 7 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Aug. 5th, 2012 06:40 am (UTC)
* BRIAN BLESSED * !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Aug. 5th, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
Precisely. :)

You know, somebody really ought to get him and Tom Baker to do something together. It's long overdue.
Aug. 11th, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
This show is beginning to sound more and more like 'Firefly!' LOL. Budget aside, there seems to be a lot of room for character growth, wheelin' and dealin', cheating and double crossing. Like Dallas in space! (Dallas on the brain – sorry!) Those are some gnarly effects on the victim there! I don't think American TV was that gruesome yet in the seventies.
Aug. 12th, 2012 08:59 am (UTC)
In the extras on one of the DVD sets, Paul Darrow (Avon) comments that "Firefly" seems to him to be a natural successor. I hated "Firefly", but I suppose he does have a point.
Aug. 12th, 2012 12:58 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I actually didn't like Firefly much either, but i loved Serenity as a single movie.
Aug. 16th, 2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
I loved Firefly, myself, and, yes Whedon has acknowledged Blake's 7 as an influence.

Andromeda Season 1 (the season it was good) showed a lot of Blake's 7 influence, too.
Aug. 16th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
And "Starhunter 2300". A band of criminals and misfits, knocking about the galaxy in a big ship. Very low budget and occasionally ropey acting. The main character was even called Travis! It wasn't brilliant, I must admit, but I rather enjoyed it.
( 7 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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