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Blake's 7: Assassin

A great idea for an episode here, if not exactly an original one. The whole thing gets let down at every turn by the world's worst guest star, though. She's awful. It's such a shame, as the actual story is very good indeed.

Servalan has decided that she's finally had enough of Avon and co, so she hires Cancer, the galaxy's deadliest assassin, to kill them all. Intercepting her message, the gang set out either to stop Cancer or kill Servalan, whichever will best ensure their survival. Or be the most fun. Unfortunately for them, nobody has any idea what Cancer looks like, or where to start looking, so instead they decide to track down Servalan. Always in search of the most dramatic hang-outs, she has arranged a meeting with Cancer on an out of the way little planet run by slave-trading gangsters.

Well, there's nothing that can go wrong there, obviously.

Servalan and her ear-rings plot together. She is wearing clothes, just in case you were wondering. They're down there somewhere.

Avon gets himself captured by slave traders on purpose, in the certainty that this will somehow help. Help who, goodness only knows.

He then finds himself incarcerated with the substitute First Doctor, from The Five Doctors. Which would ordinarily be quite nice I suppose, as it's always good when Blake's 7 and Doctor Who come together. This time Substitute One is being an endless irritation, however. All the same, he does have his uses. He's able to tell Avon about a mysterious black ship, which Servalan has visited several times. He also says that she gifted whoever is in the ship with a slave, and that the ship then left. Avon assumes correctly that Cancer was in the ship, meaning that, whilst he's got what he came for, he's also got himself locked up on the verge of being auctioned, and his teleport bracelet has been taken. Not your best plan ever Avon, if we're honest.

Servalan and her drunk best friend have a great day out admiring slaves. Unsurprisingly, there's only one that Servalan has any intention of buying.

This calls for a visit from Dayna, being ultra fierce. She rescues Avon and the substitute First Doctor, but Servalan escapes before they can kill her. Consequently the Scorpio goes dashing off across space on the trail of Cancer's mysterious black ship. They catch up with it and, with half the team teleporting aboard, the other half go home - for no discernable reason other than it being better drama if the boarding party are marooned.

We're being Bodie and Doyle again. On the DVD commentary, Paul Darrow claims that they actually used to pretend to be Starsky and Hutch, but that doesn't work quite as well. Avon's more Starsky than Hutch, so the curls are in the wrong place.

On board the ship lurks a bearded giant in a Cancer costume...

... and quite possibly the most irritating woman ever to breathe air.

Avon has a glorious way of helping, as Tarrant takes on the bearded giant in a wrestling match.

Oh look, it's Soolin. Having plot. We're halfway through the series, and they've finally decided to involve her in an actual adventure. The writers really do seem to have had something against the poor woman. Anyway, the bearded giant proves impossible to contain and, after Substitute One turns up murdered, and the ship refuses to respond to their commands, Avon, Tarrant and Soolin set out to re-capture their awkward prisoner. This will naturally involve splitting up, and creeping about in darkened corridors. Well why not. That's always such a good idea.

It is nicely done, though. The regulars are excellent, and the direction is pretty good, even if the incidental music does let the whole lot down. Worse than any music is that bloody woman, though. She spends the whole time squawking, and then when it turns out that she's really Cancer, and that the bearded giant was just a decoy to throw the gang off the scent, she gets even worse.

How to hunt down an assassin, as dramatically as possible.

I don't think you're going to find her on a shelf, Soolin.

As usual, Avon's primary weapon is a flinty-eyed smirk. This time, sadly, the smirk is no good at all, and he gets captured by Cancer.

Who then sets about trying to kill Soolin with an adorable little robot spider.

Before tying Avon to a table, and preparing to kill him with Servalan listening in.

Servalan likes this plan quite a lot.

Avon's a bit less keen.

The others burst in just in time, and Soolin somehow manages to flick the robot spider off Avon, across the room, and onto Cancer's arm. She's got one hell of an aim. Cancer even screams in the most annoying fashion, before mercifully dying. If only she could done that half an hour earlier.

The ship is still unresponsive though, and Servalan is still listening in. Speeding across space, she orders her crew to blow up the ship. She then rather bafflingly mourns for Avon and Tarrant, without whom she says the universe will not be nearly so much fun. Then why did you hire an assassin?! And what is her obsession with Tarrant? They've exchanged maybe two words with each other since he joined the cast. It gives the impression that they're having loads more adventures between episodes, which is not at all fair, given that nobody has yet written a B7 book that isn't agonisingly bad.

Anyway, they're not dead, as Avon managed to get off a message to the Scorpio, which whizzed back and teleported them out in the nick of time. Tarrant and Dayna seem vaguely amused by this. Avon is just going to glare at the wine. Still, I suppose he has had a hard day. The whole slave thing is his own silly fault, but I wouldn't have wished that ghastly woman on anybody.

I really want to like this episode more than I do. The "trapped with a killer" story is a classic, and the regular cast are more than able to do it justice. That bloody woman just ruins it though. In many ways, this one is better watched with the audio commentary on. Whilst Jacqueline Pearce is generally pretty useless as a commentator, as she clearly doesn't remember a thing, seems baffled by the plots, and is apparently incapable of following the episodes that's she commenting on, her reaction to the guest star of doom makes it all worthwhile. Approach this one with caution, then. It's well written, and well made. It just somehow all went wrong on the casting couch.


( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Nov. 16th, 2012 05:15 am (UTC)
Ah, *happy sigh*... I've been waiting for you to get to this one.

This is the one I watched the most - it was the easiest to find on the videos we had of the series. I loved this episode :)

I liked Neebrox (sp?) the First Dr substitue, but that was before he had been the first Doctor, that pathetic little look when he gets the bracelet, and Avon almost leaving him behind. And Soolin going "Of course! That's it!" in such a fab and over-dramatic way. I found Cancer annoying too; and I was only about 10 at the time!

Happy memories :D

These are wonderful recaps and I am so enjoying them.
Nov. 16th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
It's a very well made episode. I love the creeping about in the dark, even if it is daft to split up! The tension is built up nicely. I think it could easily be one of my favourites if it wasn't for that blasted woman! I will never understand Servalan's mad plotting, though.

I don't know why I find Nebrox so whiny. I suppose he's supposed to be pathetic, really. This poor old man, who doesn't stand a chance of being bought in the auction. Typical B7 that he doesn't get a happy ending!
Nov. 16th, 2012 07:06 pm (UTC)
Perhaps Servalan's creates her plots to match her outfit of the day?
Nov. 16th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
That's certainly possible!
( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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