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Blake's 7: Gambit

Fans are rather divided on this episode. Some think it's great, others think it's dire. One thing we're all agreed on is that in many ways it's spectacularly mental. I love it, but I'd really like to know what the designers were smoking when they were making the thing. Whatever it was, it must have been a hell of a lot of fun.

Blake is still looking for the missing super-computer of a few episodes back. He now knows that it's hidden somewhere called Star One, and that a medic by name of Docholli might know its location. Docholli is lurking in the murky confines of Freedom City, a corrupt pleasure retreat run by a mobster named Krantor. Also after him is Servalan, who is attempting to play Krantor, Travis and Blake off against each other, in an effort to destroy Docholli before he can give up his secret; to destroy Blake because he's Blake; to destroy Krantor because... I'm not sure. She doesn't like his interior decorating or something; and to destroy Travis because she's bored with him. Blake actually takes Cally and Jenna down to the surface with him in the search for Docholli, although I suspect that's because he doesn't trust Avon and Vila in a place like Freedom City, rather than because he plans to give the women something to do for a change (he doesn't). Meantime, Avon and Vila, annoyed to be left behind, go down to the city as well just to have some fun.

Docholli. He appears to be masquerading as a Wild West prospector, by way of Hollywood in 1956.

In fact the design of the whole place is a curious clash of cowboy movies, gangster movies, eighteenth century royalty, and Alice In Wonderland.

What wandering stranger is this? Why, 'tis the Lone Travis! Always irritating, but never before looking quite so daft.

Make that cowboy, gangster, royalty, Alice and Cirque du Soleil.

Basically I think somebody bought a job lot of costumes, and thought it would be a shame not to use them all.

Servalan, of course, can always be counted upon to dress the part. Here she's greeted by top local crook Krantor, in his palace.

He offers her fabulous sweetmeats made from the venom of local reptiles, guaranteed to cause ultimate pleasure. I love that the camera angle then immediately gives us a clear view of the plate, and shows that they're actually Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles.

Krantor's lieutenant. I think he's come to the party dressed as a really surprised Medusa.

They sprawl on the bed for a bit, and feed each other reptile venom sweets, because advancing the plot is no fun at all in comparison.

Back on the Liberator, Avon has decided to throw a disco.

Conning Orac into shrinking himself to a good casino-cracking size, Avon and Vila teleport down to Freedom City, to see if they can earn themselves some money; despite the Liberator having a whole strongroom full of the stuff.

The Lone Travis tussles with some of Krantor's men, apparently beneath the stage of the Copacabana.

Largely irrelevant screencap. Sorry about that. I just rather liked it.

This is probably the only casino in all of the universe where Avon doesn't look out of place in that ridiculous shirt.

Servalan has discovered glitter eyeshadow. She's plotting here, about getting practically everybody she's ever met to kill one another, apparently just because she's bored with life as Supreme Commander, and thinks that a bit of intrigue might spice up her calendar.

Blake, Cally and Jenna plot how best to hunt down Docholli.

Whilst the Lone Travis does the same.

Their paths meet on an empty street at high noon. Actually they don't, it's the middle of the night and in a warehouse, but whatever. Docholli doesn't actually know where Star One is, but is able to point Blake towards somebody who might. Yet again, Blake decides against killing Travis. Apparently he thinks it would be more of a punishment to leave him alive. More of a punishment for who? Me? What did I do?

The Klute. He's a master of speed chess. You play him for your life, with five seconds to make each move. After winning five million in the casino thanks to Avon and Orac, Vila is tricked into challenging him to a game.

For some reason, hundreds of years into the future, at a massively successful pleasure planet at the heart of a gigantic space empire, the locals enjoy chess played on a 1970s arcade machine. I guess retro is a popular styling there too. Thanks to Orac, Vila wins, and escapes with Avon and ten million credits that they'll never be able to spend. They nip back to the Liberator just in time to zap the others back aboard, and pretend that they've been behaving themselves in the teleport room all night.

So very little happens in this episode. The only important bit is about two minutes worth of story, when Blake looks for Docholli, finds him, and gets the lowdown on Star One. The other forty-five or so minutes are all about Freedom City, fabulous costumes, Servalan flirting with the furniture, and Avon, Vila and Orac playing chess. Plotwise it's inconsequential, stylistically it's bonkers, and with only two episodes to go before the end of the series, one could argue that it's flighty and irresponsible. I love it though, and I don't care what the sci-fi purists think. One of the good things about Blake's 5⅞ is that it can be dark and gritty one week, and totally nuts the next. Why have it just one way or the other? So long as you don't commit the sin of being boring, it's a whole lot more entertaining to do both.


( 7 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Oct. 22nd, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
I have never seen this show, but you know I had to put my avatar up, just for you! I'll have to look that show up!
Oct. 22nd, 2012 08:32 pm (UTC)
It's a good show. Not got a lot to do with Adam Ant, admittedly, but they do dress like him a fair bit!
Oct. 22nd, 2012 06:29 am (UTC)
I love this ep too :)
Oct. 22nd, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
I've never quite understood why so many people don't. I suppose because it's a bit more light-hearted or something. I love it when B7 gets dark and moody, but there's room for fun as well.
Oct. 22nd, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
I don't remeber much else, but I do have memories of the chess game. Strange what sticks with you.
Oct. 22nd, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
The chess is a pretty memorable section, so it's perhaps not such a surprise that it stuck. Vila is playing for his life, and the tension is built up nicely. It's a good scene.
Oct. 25th, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
I think all shows need one of these crazy nonsensical episodes. Give the melodrama and grittiness a break.
( 7 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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