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Blake's 7: Duel

I do wish the B7 gang wouldn't insist on wearing those daft, colour-coded anoraks whenever they have an outing on a planet. They look like school kids. The hoods, the two-tone colour schemes, the piping - all they need are dangly mittens on a string, and lunchboxes with their names on.

But anyway. A woman in an insanely revealing dress intones in typically BBC fashion about destiny and power and things like that. She and an old lady are living together on a dark planet with a statue, and despite having clearly been together for many years, are choosing now to have a conversation about why they're there. Which I suppose is quite considerate of them, but it doesn't say a lot for the scriptwriter. Meanwhile, the Liberator is seeking a place to hide out whilst the powerbanks replenish themselves; and meanwhile meanwhile, Travis is closing in. This leads to a fun space battle, with lots of rocking and wobbling, and flashy plasma cannon lighting. Blake decides he's going to ram Travis, because that sounds like fun, but the women on the planet interfere, and turn the whole universe slow-mo and psychedelic. Which is actually probably rather less fun than the ramming thing. Then they abduct Blake and Travis, and set them against each other, because why not? It's just the sort of thing to do on a dull Saturday afternoon.

There is a problem at the heart of this story. Actually, no. That's not strictly fair. There's a problem with me and this story, because I hate Blake. Everything about him irritates me, whereas Travis is great fun. It's basically a choice between the dull and preachy freedom fighter in his silly anorak, and the highly entertaining psychopath with the cybernetic eye and the black leather fetish. Blake hangs around being smirky and mocking, and Travis gets on with the business of being interesting. The old lady who lives on the planet is spectacularly turned on by his violent streak. It's an odd sort of episode all round.

In order to make the battle between Travis and Blake more of a lesson - for weird, moralistic reasons to do with the culture of the host planet, that quite frankly aren't nearly as interesting as the fighty bit - one of Blake's friends and one of Travis's are zapped on to the planet as well. In Blake's case this means Jenna, and in Travis's, since he doesn't actually have any friends, it means his genetically enhanced pilot. She's quite good, actually. It's a new side to the Federation - citizens who are modified to no longer have personality or ambition, who serve the evil empire to the best of their enhanced ability. They don't seem to have much in the way of rights or choices, and are clearly looked down upon by most humans. The implication is that Travis only likes them because he's weird. They're not lacking in personality, obviously. That would be pointless in story terms. They just act like they do for their own preservation, I think. Anyway, it's a welcome bit of extra detail into the workings of the Federation; not that it's an aspect we see much of in future. This show is awfully good at setting up clever ideas and then not really following through.

A woman on a planet.

Her partner in extra-terrestrial, spiritual weirdness.

The Liberator enters planetary orbit. Mostly included because I think it's a great shot. It's remarkable what you can achieve on a tight budget with the right creative team behind you.

Travis and his altered "mutoid" pilot.

Travis's pursuit ships prepare to gang up on the Liberator.

The Liberator attempts to ram Travis.

The women on the nearby planet interfere. This causes everybody to fall around screaming and holding their ears.

Except Avon, who's far too cool for that sort of nonsense.

Vampire bat!

Down on the planet, Jenna is about as much use as normal. That wasn't a vampire bat that did that to her though. Just in case you were wondering.

Travis and Blake do battle.

I have no idea how Blake gets the upper hand over Travis. Blake can't fight for toffee, and Travis is a highly trained soldier. Blake basically just wins because the script says that he does. Then he refuses to kill Travis, also because the script says that he does. Either that or he prefers to commit mass murder from a distance, rather than making his kills personal. After what he did in the previous episode, he certainly can't be claiming that leaving Travis alive is a moral decision - and don't let's forget all those Federation guards he keeps blowing up during his rebel activities as well. Anyway, then they all get to go home.

I can't quite decide what I think of this one. It has far too much of Blake - and far too little of compensatory Avon - for me to ever rate it highly; but on the other hand it has loads of Travis being entertaining. And it's hundreds of times better than the previous episode, which might just as well not have happened at all (even if it was very nice to see Mr Hopwood). Sadly, even the hand to hand combat is a bit rubbish, and although the woman in charge of things is quite interesting, her sidekick is just annoying. Great model work again though, and I really like the idea of the mutoids. They're a timely reminder of exactly what it is that Blake is so determined to fight.


( 6 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Aug. 11th, 2012 11:36 pm (UTC)
It sure does stink when a lead character is written as a pompous jerk!
Aug. 12th, 2012 09:09 am (UTC)
In this case I think it works. B7 was supposed to be different to other shows, in that the 'heroes' weren't really heroes at all. Blake keeps saying that he's going to save humanity from the evil Federation, but he's as ruthless as his enemy, and becomes ever more so. You really not supposed to like him.
Aug. 12th, 2012 01:21 pm (UTC)
Well, You're right. Look at 'Dallas,' J.R is the king of the show and he's probably one of the most vile men on the planet. lol.
Aug. 12th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC)
I like to think that JR isn't completely bad. I know they left his involvement in Kristin's death unconfirmed, but I prefer to think that he would stop short of murder. He probably would do just about anything else, though!
Aug. 12th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
I don't believe J.R had anything to do with Kristin's death either, though the way he just stood there so quiet and nonchalant was chilling. lol. But the show had a great way of revealing J.R's real feelings whenever he left the room, hung up a phone, or gave a loving soliloquy to Sue Ellen while she was knocked out or sleeping. Hagman was great at showing J.R's vulnerable side at those moments.
Aug. 12th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, he's had some nice scenes with Bobby in the new series as well.
( 6 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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