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Blake's 7: Countdown

I love this episode. It's not the best ever, and it's not even the best of series two, but it's certainly up there at the top of the list somewhere. The plot itself is pretty basic; in fact when you actually stop to think about it, there's very little plot at all. It just goes to prove that you don't need to have a lot going on to make a good story; you just need for the story itself to be good.

We start off with a revolution. There's a Federation base on a small world, and the locals have decided to get rid of it. The Federation have a plan, however. They want to prevent such rebellions, and consider it important to teach their subjects lessons that won't be forgotten. Once it becomes obvious that the base is lost, the officers prime a bomb. When the countdown finishes, the bomb will go off, and trigger a massive release of radiation. It'll disperse completely in less than a hundred hours, but by then everything on the planet will be dead. In the midst of the countdown, Blake and co arrive, hoping to interrogate the officer in charge of the base. He's the one person within their reach who might be able to tell them where the computer they were trying to find in 'The Episode When Gan Died' is actually located. Avon thinks he can stop the bomb, but it doesn't look like there's going to be enough time.

A very funky bomb.

I'm very fond of this bloke. He tries to disarm the bomb before the Liberator crew arrives to take over, and he has a lovely approach to it. The way that he turns his head away and cringes when he snips a wire is brilliant. Like that's actually going to help if the bomb goes off.

Evil Federation base commander man. He was on his way to escape from the planet after the bomb was set, when the revolting army caused the escape tunnel to collapse and trap him. At the moment he's lurking in the tunnels, but presently he'll be sneaking about the place, nicking rebel army clothes, and murdering with relish.

I'm rather impressed at how everybody who dies in this episode does so with blood bubbling and gushing out of their mouths. This show used to air at 7pm on a Saturday evening. Just see them trying to get away with that now!

The Liberator crew - or the bits of it who are allowed to leave the ship, at any rate - arrive at the base. Their intention is to capture and interrogate the Federation bloke from the picture above.

Although their search seems to have taken them to the local brothel. Good a place as any to look for a soldier, I guess.

A nice big countdown. There's quite a lot of that going on in this episode.

This is Del Grant. He's the mercenary who has been running the rebellion for the locals, but he's also an important figure from Avon's past.

And they're none too fond of each other. Avon used to be in a relationship with Del's sister Anna, but it ended with her capture and death at the hands of the Federation. Grant blames Avon, and has sworn to kill him. Probably predictably, Grant is the only person around who can help Avon to defuse the bomb.

Avon discovers that the bomb is only a trigger device. The bit that actually needs defusing is located at one of the poles. We are therefore very thoughtfully treated to some nice pictures, just in case we don't know what snow is.

Avon and Grant zap off to the relevant pole, with lots of equipment. They're digging and grinding and wiring and wiggling and stuff, but mostly they're talking. We hear the story of Avon and Anna, and this is easily the best bit of the episode.

It looks a bit like a round of The Adventure Game, although I don't recall that show ever requiring the contestants to prevent a worldwide nuclear catastrophe. I just mostly remember them disintegrating Keith Chegwin.

Anyway, we hear all about how Avon was shot, and was unable to make a planned rendezvous with Anna. It's a great story, and I love the background detail that it gives us for Avon. I love how it shows the man beneath the cold exterior, and proves that he's not just a computer programmed with fabulously quotable dialogue. We so rarely get any proper background for any of these characters. Little snippets occasionally for Vila; nothing beyond a few comments for Blake about his revolutionary past; nothing at all for Jenna, barring the fact that she used to be a smuggler. The story that Avon tells is a really good one though. Little wonder that the show decided to revisit it in a (much) later episode.

There's precious little time for the defusing, so Avon and Grant take their teleport bracelets off, so that they can't be zapped away before they've finished. In thawing out the base in order to get to the bomb, however, they weaken the internal structure, and the roof collapses. So they're trapped twice over, and about to get crushed, blown up and irradiated. This is probably about as dire a situation as we've ever seen Avon in. We already know him to be no coward, but his determination to do the job - because it's a good challenge, rather than because he's desperate to save any innocent civilians - is good character shading. His determination to save Grant is more to do with his own guilt over Anna's death. Again, he's not a man given to acts of charity or self-sacrifice.

It's odd, though. This Avon is perfectly in keeping with the character that we've seen throughout the show so far, and will continue to see for most of the episodes to follow. Brave, but not heroic. Cool, logical, determined, and not nearly as devoid of conscience as he'd have us believe. What this is not perfectly in keeping with, is the Avon that we see in the series four episode "Orbit". I'm jumping way ahead there, I know, but so many fans seem to love that episode, and the ice cold Avon that we see in it. For me though, Avon is as thoroughly out of character in that episode as he was in the last one, when he spent the entire time trying to get himself killed to protect Blake. Sorry. I seem to have gone into ramble mode. It's just that this show so rarely puts real flesh on the bones of its characters, so it rather stands out when it does.

Naturally the day is saved with about a second and a half to spare. The bomb is defused, the planet is safe (at least until the Federation come back and have another go), Avon and Grant are able to escape, and the rift between them is healed. Grant accepts that Avon is not to blame for Anna's death, although Avon himself doesn't seem too sure.

That's a fabulously non-illustrative screencap, isn't it. Avon's drilling holes to insert rods, to prevent plungers from dropping down. It's all endearingly cut-price and wobbly. I love the idea of the Federation building a fiendish and ghastly genocide device out of brightly coloured cardboard and perspex.

Job done, and Blake quizzes Avon on what went down between him and Grant, and what their feud was all about. Avon is back into cold mode though. Can't say as I blame him for not wanting to open up to Blake. When he says that Blake wouldn't understand, and then walks away, Blake just smirks and giggles. I am not a fan of Blake at the best of times, but I think this point is when he is at his most punchable ever. And that's saying something.


( 1 fierce growl — Growl fiercely )
Aug. 28th, 2012 06:17 am (UTC)
Gotta watch that perspex...
( 1 fierce growl — Growl fiercely )

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