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Blake's 7: Dawn of the Gods

Critics of series three tend to claim that the show lost its direction after Blake left - that rather than being a show about political rebels, it became a show about people wandering around the galaxy having random adventures. Thing is though, that's what it was before Blake left as well. It wasn't until the Star One arc that they actually had a goal that they followed. Before that they might have intended to be political rebels, but they went about it by wandering around the galaxy having random adventures. So the only change is the loss of an ultimate goal that only ever mattered to one of them anyway. Which is the roundabout way of saying that this episode is something of a random adventure.

The gang are wandering through space, then, when they find that their course has been changed. Orac has spied an unusual black hole, and has decided to go over for a closer look. It's not exactly a black hole, though. It's a trap set up by an alien power, in order to get scrap metal for some kind of intergalactic ironmongery. Ships are sucked in and appropriated, and their crews enslaved. At the heart of it all is a being calling himself the Tharn, a supposed god from the myths of Cally's people. It's nice to see her doing something for a change, even if she does inevitably have to play second fiddle to the heroics of Avon and Tarrant. She even gets to talk about her homeworld a bit, which is so rare that casual viewers probably don't even realise she's not human. I rather liked hearing the legend of the gods of Auron. They ought to do that kind of thing more often. After all, why bother creating an alien race if you're not going to give them substance? Legends and religion and politics and that sort of thing all help to make them real.

The gang play space Monopoly. It's a good game. In space Monopoly you don't just get to build hotels. You also get to amass a battle fleet to blast your opponents with. That's so much better than buying public utilities, and arguing about rent.

Meanwhile, outside the spaceship things are looking good. Fond though I am of the scenes of the Liberator against a backdrop of cardboard starfields, real ones do look quite a lot better.

Less good are the costumes. Why Tarrant thinks that a Robin Hood outfit is sensible space gear I don't know. He really does look like a kid who's been playing in the dressing-up box.

This is not exactly helped by Avon, who has abandoned his usual habit of wearing leather and cooking foil this week, in favour of a perfectly ordinary sweatshirt.

And then they get caught by the black hole, and the whole world goes all fairground mirrors. Avon attempts to save himself with a spacesuit, but Tarrant insists that they're all going down together. I don't know why he's so set on that, as most of them don't even like each other. It's just the sort of faintly swashbuckly-sounding thing that he likes to say. Anyway, there's wrestling. The girls are, naturally, unconscious by this point. Why is anybody's guess.

Possibly that's what's got Avon so amused, when they arrive on the other side of the hole. Everybody worries desperately about an unresponsive Cally, although given how much she moves about when the camera isn't on her, she can't be all that badly hurt.

They stick her in a resuscitation thingy just to be on the safe side, while she mutters to the voice of the Tharn inside her head. Telepathy really is a menace, at least in this show. When she wakes up, she frets about the total evil that she can feel in the locality. Given the complete lack of total evil on display throughout the episode, however, I rather wish she'd kept quiet, and avoided getting the audience's hopes up unnecessarily.

Orac informs everybody that they've been removed from space. Nobody can see any stars, and all that the viewscreens show is blackness. The hatches won't open, so Vila is sent to persuade them, and have a quick recce while he's at it. He winds up panicking when his suit is damaged and starts to lose pressure, but it's all one big false alarm.

They're inside a giant spacecraft hanger. So technically Orac was right about being removed from space, although somebody really ought to have a word with him about being needlessly dramatic.

Everybody goes out for a look around. Clearly the needlessly dramatic thing is catching.

They're confronted by a 'monster'. I love this bit. Firstly, despite the best efforts of the BBC Props Department, it's about as frightening as the Myrka. It's not supposed to look alive, as it's a robot thing, but it's so hilariously ineffective. Then everybody races around it, in an effort to make it look much more dangerous than it actually is, and then they have to let it capture them, which is even funnier still.

Vila does have a brilliantly big gun though, which is nice. Not sure why they've given him a plasma cannon, when they usually barely trust him to tie his own shoelaces, but whatever. Sadly the guns don't work.

Only the Tharn's technology works here, apparently. This bloke runs the place for the Tharn, mostly by waving his shiny walking stick about, and being irritating.

In a jail cell, Cally tells everybody the story of the Tharn, a fallen god cast out of the galaxy for being generally unpleasant. Why does a god need to sell scrap iron from salvaged spaceships, though? I tend to think of them as being a bit more special than that.

I'm rather taken by how Tarrant has put on his best outfit to get captured in. Meanwhile, shiny walking stick man prowls the locality, waving his stick every five minutes. Scrap metal and a bloke with a stick. Somehow I'd expected more from a "totally evil" super being that's been able to capture every ship and its crew that's ever come within reach. It's all a bit of a shambles.

The Tharn demands Cally's presence, and proceeds to offer her the universe as a token of his affection. He's a very dull god. He sounds like a faintly desperate teenage boy trying to make out with a girl at a movie. And why does he have to have her asleep on a rug before they can have a conversation?

Cally cons him into turning off his self-defences, and then blasts anything that looks like it might be important. This makes the Tharn whimper pathetically. It also makes everything else fall apart, allowing Avon and Tarrant to rescue Vila and Dayna, and scarper back to the Liberator. A fellow prisoner, given every chance to escape alongside them, decides that he'd much rather stay where he is and get blown up. "Tell my family that I never stopped thinking about them," he says, whilst making absolutely no attempt to return to them. If there's any point to his presence, I can't see it.

Cally comes face to face with the Tharn. I like that it's an anti-climax, and I like that this feared, fallen god figure turns out to be so pathetic. How has he managed to capture so many people and keep them all prisoner for so long, if he's just a rubbish old man in a cupboard, though? I'm not sure that it makes sense. Cally runs away to join the others, and then the whole place blows up, so we never really get to find anything out. And then Tarrant announces that they're off to deliver their useless friend's last message to his family, which should make for an interesting conversation. "Well, he was thinking about you, but he just felt that it would be better if he stayed where he was and blew up, rather than trying to come home at all. Um... bye."

Not a bad episode then. Just bizarrely uneventful for something involving gods and black holes. Even if it wasn't a real black hole, it still should have been a lot more exciting; and with the god turning out to be so rubbish, it should have had something else to provide some kind of drama or excitement along the way. Prancing fools with shiny walking sticks just don't cut it, I'm afraid.

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