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Blake's 7: Aftermath

Series three ushers in a whole new era of sparkly colour. These are my favourite episodes of Blake's 7, when the show has my favourite cast, and everything seems to be at its best. This means that it's not always easy to be objective, but I shall try. Episode one introduces a new character, one that I especially like, as well as very ably setting up a brave new world, both for the Federation and for the crew of the Liberator. Not that the writers are going to do a great deal with it, as they're always a lot better at thinking up good ideas than they are at doing things with them; but I appreciate the ideas nonetheless. I also greatly appreciate the fabulous amount of things that apparently need to explode in order to get it all underway. Seriously, the entire first five minutes of this episode is an endless succession of explosions. They should make more television like that. It's just better.

So, in this episode, the war with the Andromedans is coming to its end. The humans have won through sheer force of numbers, albeit only just. Having been there at the beginning, before reinforcements could arrive, the Liberator has suffered severe battle damage, so everybody quickly abandons ship. We follow Avon, largely because he's best. No, that's pretty much the only reason really, isn't it. Two series along, and Avon is the only character that anybody's bothered to give any depth to. He also has all the best dialogue, a nice silver shirt, and really great boots. Conveniently, in that case, he's also the only character who has managed to have his escape pod land somewhere where there's any sort of plot underway.

The first sign that the show has had a revamp is in the opening credits. No more pixellated images of Blake, looking scarily like Fred West. Instead we get a shiny sequence that looks straight out of Battle Of The Planets.

And then of course there are the explosions. Everywhere things are exploding with enthusiasm. Mostly aboard the Liberator. Meanwhile, the cast confer, painfully obviously in a voice over booth.

Vila attempts to find out what's going on, only to be attacked by sheets of flame and collapsing bits of tin, which is an odd thing to suddenly discover that the Liberator is made out of.

Avon is bashed over the head by something, so Cally and Vila load him and Orac into an escape pod, before presumably jumping into a couple themselves. Of Blake and Jenna there is no sign. Elsewhere, others escape from other ships that were caught up in the battle. They're all crashing down onto the nearby planet of Saron.

Which is unfortunate, as it's populated by raving loonies on horseback. First to crash is Mike Yates from Doctor Who, somewhat unexpectedly. I suppose it could be a distant descendant, although I never really pegged him for the descendant type. Either that or the UNIT dating controversy is even more complicated than we thought. Anyway, it's Mike Yates, and he promptly gets thoroughly deaded by a raving loony on horseback. Avon then thoughtfully crashlands mere yards away, allowing the raving loonies to pounce with minimum effort.

Lurking in the sand dunes, however, is Dayna. I like Dayna very much, even if she couldn't be bothered to save Mike Yates as well.

Dayna, as you may have noticed, is female. This means that, in keeping with the rules of Blake's 7, she should soon be sidelined, destined to become decorative but pointless. Somehow, however, she isn't. Dayna seems to be the one female character that the writers actually liked, on top of which she's one of the best things to happen to the show in a long time. She arrives fully realised. We know more about her by the end of this, her first episode, than we know about any of the other characters on the show - even Avon, the only person who has so far come anywhere near to bothering all three dimensions. She has a father and a sister, a home, a past, hobbies, clearly defined talents and character strengths and flaws. She's also played by probably the best actor we've had so far. Fond of Avon though I am, I don't think anybody has ever really considered complimenting Paul Darrow on the splendid subtleties of his performance; and whilst Gareth Thomas is actually quite well respected, he's tended to spend much of the past couple of series not bothering to do much. Josette Simon has spent time with the Royal Shakespeare Company though, and it shows. Or it does in this episode. Admittedly it's not often that she gets the opportunity, but it's always the thought that counts.

Also crashlanded on Saron is Servalan, who wastes no time in being as devious and awkward as always. It turns out that Star One has been destroyed, ushering in the new era that Blake had in mind. The Federation is more or less broken, most of the fleet is destroyed, and there's not nearly enough manpower left to reclaim the empire. The destruction of the super-computer means that everything is chaos. Servalan is president, although not of a lot. She's still busy scheming though, and manages to get herself invited into the party. Dayna takes both her and Avon down to the undersea base that she shares with her father and sister.

Avon immediately finds himself in the middle of a blaxploitation film. This is Hal Mellanby, Federation rebel and fugitive, who really cunningly managed to get his spaceship to crash beneath the seabed, so that the psycho natives of Saron couldn't get at him. There he has lurked ever since, whilst Dayna - who's a weapons-building genius, conveniently enough - has spent her adolescence roaming the planet, treating the local population as test subjects for her growing arsenal of home-made weapons of mass destruction. She's ruthless enough to make Avon look kind and gentle. Her father, on the other hand, is a hippy.

Servalan decides to spend her time bitching spectacularly with Dayna whilst awaiting rescue. These two spark off each other pleasantly well. Sadly it's not a chemistry that's destined to be especially well used.

Avon confers with Orac. Blake has crashed somewhere, and Jenna's found her way onto a hospital ship, although doesn't appear to actually be hurt. Vila and Cally are somewhere vague, and there's a ship docking with the Liberator. It might be them, muses Avon, so orders Zen not to fry the inhabitants - a choice that he'll probably soon be regretting. The ship contains my favourite character, and probably his least favourite, barring Blake. That's for the next episode though. In the meantime, the Liberator is out of danger and repairing itself nicely, and Zen promises to pick up Avon just in time for the end of the episode. He's handy that way.

Servalan has designs on the Liberator. And Orac. And escape. And Avon's boots. She therefore flirts shamelessly, having clearly forgotten that Avon has more brains than most of the rest of the cast combined. He's in no mood to join forces with her and rule the galaxy, which is actually rather a shame.

Forced to turn to other plans, Servalan ransacks the Mellanby's bathroom cabinet, in an effort to find out why the name is so familiar. It's a splendidly disco bathroom cabinet. They have sparkly silver bed linen too. Sometimes I'm not sure that I'd enjoy the future very much. Spaceships + laser rifles = good. The clothing and decor... really not so much.

Moved possibly by the ghastly bed linen, or possibly just because Mellanby was a rebel, Servalan blasts him (with a brilliantly energetic gun prop that clearly startles the living daylights out of her). Dayna swears revenge.

And then promptly discovers that her sister has been killed by the locals. Avon thoughtfully remains quiet at this point, which is just as well, as his line about her father's death was hilariously inappropriate. Together they set off to kill Servalan (and rescue a kidnapped Orac).

Chasing down Servalan shouldn't actually take too long, as she's making her escape across sand dunes, in a floaty purple ballgown and silver high heels. Probably unsurprisingly therefore, she soon gets herself scrobbled by the locals. Avon, Dayna and some great-looking futuristic rifles thoroughly fail to kill her.

This allows more flirting, and Dayna the opportunity to swear revenge quite a lot.

Poor Dayna. She's destined never to fulfill her greatest desire; and in fact is rarely given the opportunity even to try. Still, it's nice to have a ferocious weapons genius on the team. Dayna's fondness for home-made grenades is one of several reasons why I like her so much.

Anyhow, Orac zaps them both aboard the Liberator, leaving Servalan skulking in the undersea base. There's somebody else aboard the Liberator, though. It's a cocksure, swaggering Federation officer, who has claimed the ship for himself. Without bothering with introductions, he announces that they're both under sentence of death. Good old Tarrant. Start as you mean to go on.

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