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Blake's 7: Star One

Fans of Blake's 7 seem to be divided into two camps - those who think that the season two finale is best, and those who think that it's season three that deserves that title. I'm in the season three camp, but season two really does end on a spectacular high note. It's like a feature film, even though it's still the regular fifty-one-odd minutes long. This programme does have its frustratingly low points, but it's episodes like this one that show why people still remember B7 so fondly, nearly thirty-five years since it began.

Star One is failing. This is a problem, and not just because it's the massive super-computer that controls the entire Federation. In their determination to keep the computer's location a secret, to guard against treachery and revolt, the Federation has ensured that nobody has been left alive with knowledge of its location. Consequently there's nothing that anybody can do to fix it. Meanwhile, Blake and co are homing in on the planet where it's hidden; as is Travis, for reasons of his own - whilst, down amongst the microchips, it turns out that Star One isn't failing at all. It's being sabotaged, for splendidly dramatic season-ending reasons.

One of the good things about the 'Star One is failing' plot is that it gives us a snapshot of what exactly it is that Blake hopes to achieve. He plans to destroy the thing altogether, simultaneously obliterating the infrastructure of hundreds of Federation worlds. This spaceship here is a cruise ship packed with four thousand passengers.

But a malfunctioning Star One causes another ship to crash into it during automated planetary approach, killing everybody aboard. The engines then land on a city on the planet beneath, with a resulting explosion that wipes out half the population. And that's before even touching on the floods, hurricanes, blizzards and ruined crops, as climate control also collapses.

Servalan is not best impressed. Also, at the same time, I think she sort of is. In order to prevent the collapse of the Federation, she organises the troops, and mounts a coup. By the end of the episode, she's the new president of the galaxy. Although admittedly it's touch and go as to whether there's still going to be a galaxy for her to be president of.

Blake and Avon discuss the location of Star One. The rest of the crew are getting cold feet about the advancing probability of their being complicit in genocide on a spectacular scale. Blake is quite convinced that he's doing the right thing. After all, he might be wiping out most of the galaxy, but at the same time, he will at least be freeing them from the Federation.

Avon just wants to be rid of Blake. He'll help to destroy Star One, if it means that he'll get Blake out of his life forever, and can take the Liberator and be free.

Down on the surface of Star One, one of the technicians is sabotaging something. This distresses Zammo McGuire's mother, who for some reason is a member of staff there. It turns out that she's the only actual technician left. The rest are all ringers - aliens from the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

Blake, Cally and Avon go down to the surface to begin their demolition work. With their usual competence, Blake and Cally are immediately captured by the disguised Andromedans. It seems that they're expected, though. A human has set all of this up, contacting the Andromedans, helping them gain access to Star One, and planning to set in motion an intergalactic war that humanity can't hope to win. Mostly, it would seem, just because he's a bit pissed off.

That human being Travis, naturally enough, in yet another pointless and overly dramatic disguise. Sadly an ill-timed appearance by Zammo McGuire's mother allows him to escape.

Actually, maybe not so sad. Shooting down Blake, Travis begins muttering and plotting about the destruction of the Federation, and humanity, and anything else that's ever insulted him.

Meanwhile, Avon discovers that the local technicians aren't who they ought to be. They turn into pulsating green seaweed and slime whenever he shoots them.

Either the Andromedans or the original creators of Star One have an interesting approach to computer design. As Travis's allies carefully disassemble the defence grids that protect the far reaches of the galaxy from extra-galactic invasion, the walls light up in glitter-rainbow patterns. It's like the eighties have come early. Or several hundred years late.

The infamous battle fleet of deadly kitchen utensils. It wobbles quite charmingly, but there's firepower enough here to destroy humanity, provided it can all get into the galaxy before the alarm is raised.

Fortunately for humanity the Liberator is hiding nearby, and Jenna sends a message to warn Servalan. Unfortunately for humanity, she does this by really obviously reading her lines off a cue card. She even leans forward and squints at it as she does so. It's an insanely naff moment in an otherwise flawless episode.

Avon and co burst into the control room of Star One, and find Blake half-deaded. Avon blasts Travis with relish.

Travis, being Travis, is quite determined not be deaded until Blake is.

So Avon blasts him again, and sends him hurtling down into the centre of the planet, via some sort of computer cooling channel, I assume. Either way, Travis couldn't be a lot deader now. Were he still to be wearing his first head, I would be saddened by this. As it is, I couldn't be happier. It's odd, as I do wonder how this storyline would have played out without the recast. I can't see the original Travis having gone this bitter and insane. Still, we'll never know, will we. As it is, this particular Travis deserves everything he gets.

Although how bad are we supposed to think he is, really? He's trying to destroy humanity because he's a bit pissed off with it, whereas Blake is also toying with the idea of destroying vast swathes of it, all for an ideal. Travis is vastly more irritating than Blake, but that can't be the only thing that justifies painting him as the bad guy.

Meanwhile, Cally has spent the afternoon seeding the complex with time-bombs. Having realised that Star One is the only thing keeping the Andromedans from invading, Blake tells her to hurry up and collect all the bombs back up again - in two and a half minutes, so make it snappy. She does so, which is quite remarkable, given how long it took her to plant the things. They blow up, most pleasingly, over a hill - all except for one, which Zammo McGuire's mother blows herself up with, in order to get rid of all the Andromedans on the base. Maybe that's why Zammo turned to drugs?

The gang are back aboard the Liberator, but far from safe. Some of the Andromedans have broken through into the Milky Way. There's going to be a war, even with Star One still functioning. Has the Federation been alerted in time, or will the half-deaded Blake and his crew have to take on the entire neighbouring galaxy and their deadly kitchen utensils all on their own? Avon tells Blake to go lie down and take it easy. After all, it's only the future of humanity at stake. It's not like it's anything important that they might need lots of help with.

Avon prepares to lead the Liberator crew into battle. I do like how fabulously quotable he remains, even when facing almost certain death at the hands of an entire galaxy. Well, the bit of it that managed to sneak in before the Star One sabotaging got stopped, anyway. Either way, that's still a hell of a lot of kitchen utensils.

The Liberator advances against the enemy. Can they possibly survive? Great cliffhanger for the end of the series, especially given the wait that there always is when you only get thirteen episodes a year. How will I ever stand the suspense?


( 3 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Oct. 25th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
This was an exciting read. When you said the end of the series, I was think in its entirety. But you have 2 more 'seasons' to go. Cool. look forward to more reviews.
Oct. 26th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
Fifty-two episodes in all. This was twenty-six, so there's a fair way to go, yes. :) Some very, very good, and some spectacularly bad!
Oct. 29th, 2012 06:39 am (UTC)
but it's episodes like this one that show why people still remember B7 so fondly, nearly thirty-five years since it began.

( 3 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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