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Blake's 7: Games

A perfectly entertaining episode, this, but entirely pointless. The plot goes nowhere, and nobody achieves anything. It feels like filler, which doesn't exactly matter in a series that has no real ultimate goal, or arc plot. It's just that it's rare to find an episode that's so blatantly empty of purpose. Still, it's not bad. It just makes the ending rather frustrating, when you realise that it was all leading to nothing at all.

There's a newly discovered jewel, mined only on a distant planet, that has energy-magnifying properties. It's expected to become vital to all aspects of Federation life, and of unimaginable value - and Avon has decided to steal the Federation's stockpile. Vila has his mind set on wealth; Dayna, Tarrant and Soolin on the potential uses of the jewel for their own engineering purposes; and Avon on smirking, and over-enunciating every line with extra dramatic relish. I'm sure he has his own plans as well, although he doesn't bother sharing them. Anyway, he's found a disgraced Federation academic who will help the gang to steal them. No idea how. He arrives, he's pointless, he vanishes. Anyway, Avon's found him. And off go the gang to steal some jewels.

Always a good way to start an episode (the jewels are given to exploding, if over-charged with energy. This is irrelevant to almost all aspects of the plot, but it makes for a nice beginning).

Avon agrees.

Stratford Johns is in charge of the Federation mining programme, although he's keeping half of the jewels for himself, because summary execution sounds like fun. He lives in an underground cave, with a computer dressed up like a jukebox, and together they play endless games. Why do people in science fiction always play multiple-level chess?

Stratford Johns has, apparently to his surprise, been found out in his double-dealing by the Federation, and invites Avon and co to come help him escape with his half of the boodle. This surely renders Avon's disgraced academic even more pointless than he was to begin with, although everybody's far too polite to say anything.

Off go the team to round up the boodle, gamely taking the pointless academic along anyway, because why not. Possibly they like his beard.

Vila finds a dead Federation guard, and immediately picks up the murder weapon. Always a good plan.

Oh look. Whoever could have seen that coming. Problem is, this is all going nowhere. Murdered guard plot? Nowhere. Roving guards arresting the regulars? Nowhere. Servalan lurking on the planet, intent on grabbing Stratford Johns, and the Scorpio gang, and piles of stolen jewels? Nowhere nowhere nowhere.

Still, it does give a lurking stealth-Dayna a chance to be very cool, as she rescues everybody from various guards on multiple occasions.

Servalan is plotting to murder Stratford Johns. Oh, go on. He hasn't made 'Four To Doomsday' yet. You'd be doing us all a favour.

I would say that it's Professionals/Starsky & Hutch time again, except that they didn't tend to burst dramatically into caves. This show must have been so much fun to film. Not if you're Glynis Barber, obviously. But otherwise.

Stratford Johns explains that, yes, he is a thief, but that doesn't necessarily make him untrustworthy. They absolutely can follow him down the dark tunnel, and the fact that he's just been plotting with Servalan to exchange them for his life is absolutely nothing to worry about. And that 'Four To Doomsday' wasn't his fault anyway, so stop glaring.

Dayna is unconvinced. If she kills him now, there's always a chance that the Doctor will be spared a truly dire story. Space adventurers have got to stick together. Unfortunately the thought of the jewels wins through, and the gang follow Stratford Johns into a trap - from which Vila is shortly to rescue them, with absolutely no attempt having been made to generate any tension in the meantime. I don't think they're even trying this week. Is there an excitement budget, as well as a cost one?

Outside, Vila attempts to get himself rescued by Avon, because he's lonely, and for some reason is more scared of hiding outside the dangerous caves than he is of going into them. He has spent the first half of the episode being irritatingly ineffectual again though, so there's no sense looking for logic.

A few more jewels explode, in a vain attempt to inject a little energy into things.

Vila clearly does not enjoy such displays nearly as much as I do. Happily, though, the explosion knocks his periodic brains back into place, and he once again becomes his alter-ego, Super Vila.

Vila finds Stratford Johns' computer, which in order to protect the secret of the stolen jewels, has just been instructed to self-destruct. Apparently genuinely sympathetic, he convinces it that it's wrong to be asked to commit suicide. It can't refuse the order, but it does help him to rescue the others, and gives him one of its circuits so that Orac will be able to do something clever; if ultimately just as pointless as everything else is tonight.

If in doubt, flatten yourself against a wall with a gun in your hand. It always looks good.

Soolin, in a rare attack of usefulness, takes herself on in a shoot-out. It's part of a game designed by Stratford Johns to protect the jewels. Sort of a heavily interactive safe combination.

Step two is a flight simulator, which Tarrant handles.

And then, I don't know. Either they ran out of time, or inspiration, or something. Avon decides that the games are ultimately pointless, and that there are no jewels, so they go back to the Scorpio. So the entire planetside bit of plot, leading up to this attempt on the vault - a good 95% of the episode - was pointless. Then the self-destructing computer decides to take Stratford Johns with it. He's on his ship, with the jewels. Which did exist after all, except he's got them. Then there's suddenly a black hole, which he's flying into with the jewels because of the self-destructing computer, and energy-absorbing jewels + black hole = super, super black hole. Not quite sure about the physics there, but never mind. Anyway, Avon orders a laser cannon blast to destroy the ship, because the resulting massive explosion from all the energy-charged jewels will cancel out the black hole. He then glares at the camera for a bit, as though planning a suitable revenge against the writers.

This is an unfathomable episode. It's pefectly watchable, even if every five minutes has a habit of rendering the five minutes before it completely superfluous. It's one anti-climax after another. Plot strands begin and end in an instant, with no attempt to let anything build up into anything worthwhile. Then at the end it all proves to be even more pointless still. There are jewels, except there aren't. Except there are but they're somewhere else. Servalan's presence is completely unnecessary; the jewels serve no purpose at all, other than to explode every so often; the native inhabitants of the planet are murdering Federation guards, but that doesn't go anywhere either; both Servalan and the disgraced academic just run out of story towards the end of the episode, although conveniently she's captured him by then, so their pointlessness is safely contained; and then to crown it all, the plot actually kills itself, when the gang explode the jewels in order to save themselves from an utterly pointless black hole that had no reason for being there anyway. And how powerful must those jewels have been, to have cancelled out a black hole? I can't help thinking that one or two of them exploding should have been a whole hell of a lot more awesome than the little bangs that we saw.

It's nonsense then, from beginning to end. Not boring, or even particularly bad, just an aimless waste of time. A shame, as it wouldn't have taken much to have improved it. I think the script editor must have been on holiday that week.


( 2 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Nov. 17th, 2012 03:34 am (UTC)
The only thing I remember, even vaguely, about this is the Soolin shoutout.
Nov. 17th, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
It is pretty forgettable. Entertaining enough in places, but there's nothing about it that stands out.
( 2 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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