Blake’s 7: Season one: Space Fall
Ahhh, Blake’s 7. One of my first examples of British sci-fi behind Doctor Who, although I grew to love B7 a lot more. If you could look past the flimsy BBC sets and the tight-budget locations (Have to love that gasworks), fight through the strings and CSO, you would find an incredibly engrossing serious science fiction show. It had it’s high points and it’s lows, heroes with flaws instead of finely chiseled supermen. (i’m looking at you, Dylan Hunt!) and was one of the first TV shows, at least to my knowledge, that always had the underlying idea that these characters that you grow to adore could be taken from you in an instant, as we find out in later episodes. one of my favourite series of all, with my most-loved character of all (The cold, ruthless and psychotic Avon. Blake’s ultimate dark-side) and worthy of a review or two. So without any further ado, i’ll begin.
Space Fall is the second episode of Blake’s 7, and the reason I reviewed it instead of episode one was twofold : one, this episode has most of the original crew in it, instead of episode one who only had 3, and two, this episode was the first to contain their spaceship, the Liberator. Of course, if this review is appreciated I will write more, maybe even the entire show, but for now, episode 2 will have to do.
It starts out with a bunch of prisoners being ferried via transport from Earth to the prison planet of Cygnus Alpha, for the rest of their lives. All of them are strapped in freely, apart from Roj Blake, who was confined to his seat after causing a disturbance at the end of episode one. On the bridge of the transport, named the London, Captain Leylan, first officer Raiker and navigational officer Artix, are having a bit of a gripe about shoddy Terran Federation maintenance crews, who always claim to fix something but end up not doing it. The conversation turns from that to some advance reports of a meteor storm on their course that might cause some concerns, and a private chat between captain and first mate about the one female prisoner on board: Smuggler Jenna Stannis. Apparently Raiker is after some rumpy-pumpy, and instead of berating him the Captain just tells him to use discretion. what a ship! (and I can’t really blame Raiker, Jenna is quite a dish)
Back to the prisoners, who now have to listen to ‘the talk’ as given by Mr. Raiker who you just know by now loves giving people a hard time, and just waits for any and all opportunities to do so. his talk is encouraging (” Understand this clearly. you have no rights whatsoever. None. Any questions?”) and then the criminals are allowed to wander their quarters and mess-hall. All except Blake, still confined, who is allowed to get screamed at by Raiker for missing a ‘sir’ and mocked (in a quite friendly tone, i must say) about how a mighty Resistance leader was sent away on child molestation charges (forged by the Federation). He’s then allowed to join the others.
In the rec area, Jenna is talking to fellow prisoners Nova and Vila Restal. (Played brilliantly by Michael Keating) Here is also where we see the first of many, many examples of Vila’s cowardice, asking if the guards would mind if he suffered from flight sickness. (“They’ll amputate your head”). Raiker also takes a crack at Jenna finally, with less than impressive results (i still want to know what she whispered to him. Whatever it was, it earned her a slap in the face).
This is also where Kerr Avon gets introduced, poring over a note he had in his pocket and getting extremely defensive when Jenna asks about it. Blake has also seen fit to make the long trek through one door in this time, for a fond introduction to his best friend and worst enemy.
“Blake- Kerr Avon, when it comes to computers he’s the number two man in all the Federated worlds”
“Who’s number one?”
“The guy that caught him… Do you know he came close to stealing five million credits from the Federation Banking System?”
(to Avon) “what went wrong?”
” I relied on other people!”
Avon tells them how the doors on the ship recognise guards and officers, and it is here that Blake confides in Vila and Jenna that he thinks they can take the ship as their own. on the bridge, however, matters have just been complicated. The supposed ‘meteorite storm’ is actually a protracted space battle, and although Captain orders to take the ship around instead of through the fighting, spectrum shock-waves continuously buffet the old transport craft, causing hassles.
Blake is using Vila, along with fellow prisoner Olag Gan, to distract the guards with tricks while he scouts out the service ducts of the ship. When he returns he confirms that the plan he had in mind will work, as long as the main factor in it agrees. He must enlist the help of Avon in order to control the ship’s main computer, from there they can hold the ship hostage with absolute impunity. Avon reluctantly agrees to follow Blake until his part of the mission is completed (and here you see the first Avon/Blake hostility. “Don’t try to manipulate ME, Blake” is a powerful line)
While the ship continues getting pounded by shock-waves, Blake gathers all the crew he can. This consists of Avon, Jenna, Gan, Nova, Vila and Blake himself. The rest of the prisoners are too doped up on suppressants to be of any help. using teamwork they get Avon into the service ducts and he starts on his way. he gets to the computer room, but can’t get inside because a technician is working in there. After a long time with no word, Blake decides to go in after him, but is warned against it by the others for he will need to lead the troops afterwards. Nova decides to go down and see what’s happening, but the ship gets holed during his trip, and the poor boy is drowned in shaving cream (alright, alright. Sealing Gel) Avon, on the other hand, has taken the technician by surprise and is in the process of beating the crap out of him.
On the bridge, Captain Leyland and Artix are concerned about a radar blip that is bearing down on them at a very fast rate but can’t see it properly because the scanners are malfunctioning. By this time Avon has switched off the security cameras and is in the process of opening up all the doors when the Technician comes to and attacks him again. The guard that Gan and Vila were distracting notices the camera shutting down, and so Blake is forced to tip his hand early. Gan grabs the guard, and as Avon is again beating the hell out of the poor technician, Blake has used the guard’s hand to open the door and start his mutiny.
Avon finishes with his victim, and opens all the doors on the ship at once. Raiker and Artix run down to the computer room to find the fault, and bump into Blake and Jenna, who is trying to meet up with Avon. Shots are traded between Raiker and Blake, and then Avon saves the day by opening the computer room door and letting them in. (I assume his tinkering witht he doors was a one-time override, and they could be closed again ‘manually’) Now the alarm has been sounded, so Avon begins systematically crippling computer systems. Meanwhile, Gan, Vila and the others are promptly captured by guards on their way to the armory. (gotta love Vila getting confused and dropping his gun)
Leylan immediately goes to the computer room and tells Blake to surrender, which is met with an obvious response. The captain then tries a different tactic, telling Blake about the object heading towards them which is now invisible to all sensor scans thanks to his sabotage. Raiker gets an idea to make Blake come out, and receives full support to do whatever is necessary from Leylan. Inside their cosy computer room, Blake, Jenna and Avon are arguing, and Avon learns of Blake’s idealistic devotion to destroying the Federation that drugged him and controlled him for so long, but he disagrees totally. “Wealth” he says “Is the only reality, and the only way to obtain wealth is to take it from somebody else. Wake up Blake! You may not be tranquillised, but you’re still dreaming”
Jenna simply replies with “maybe some dreams are worth having” She has already made her allegiance.
Raiker shows Blake and the audience his plan. It’s very simple, Blake has 30 seconds to come out, or Raiker will shoot a prisoner, another 30 seconds, another prisoner. Two die before Blake finally gives in and tells Avon to open the door. He is reluctant, but does so. Artix rushes off to tell Raiker to stop, and Raiker does so… after waiting for another 30 seconds. He then proceeds to taunt Blake, who tries to take a swing at him which is ultimately futile. Blake and Avon are taken away, but Jenna is stopped by Raiker, now wanting to take a pick in the second chance draw. Thankfully, he is stopped by Leylan, who tells him that he will be put on report and that there will be an official inquiry on the massacre of unarmed prisoners.
The trio of Blake, Avon and Jenna are now confined in their chairs, and Avon can’t help but remind Blake that it was his mistake that cost them the ship.
” What a fiasco, You could take over the ship, you said, if i did my bit and I did my bit, so what happened? your troops bumble around looking for someone to surrender to and when they do, you follow suit”
Blake says that he’ll do better next time, but Avon states that there won’t be any next time, one-shot was all they had.
On the bridge, power has been restored and we finally get to see a shot of the Liberator, over 10x the size of the London. it is drifting through space, a fighter of the space-battle, and after no response to any transmissions Raiker suggests they try and salvage her. Leylan agrees. Some guards get suited up and force open the outer hatch of the monstrous ship, but are suddenly and inexplicably silenced. Raiker sends another man through the transfer tube to report on the silence, but he also doesn’t come back. By this time Leylan is ready to give up, but Raiker suggests one last try, using expendable prisoners. Specifically Blake, Avon and Jenna. They are put through the airlock and tossed weapons from Raiker, but not before one of the guards, foaming at the mouth, tries to attack him as the airlock opens.
At the other end of the transfer tube, Blake and crew find the second dead guard. When they step through into the Liberator’s flight deck, they find the third. All the lights are dimmed, as if the ship is running on minimal power. none of them have ever seen design anything like the Liberator’s, but their investigation is stopped by an attack by a Colour Separation Overlay (it’s some sort of ball, like a brainball) It conjures up memories from each one of them, and projects them back as weapons. Blake sees his family, Jenna sees his mother being tortured and raped by Federation guards, and Avon sees his brother. Blake manages to snap out of it, and tries vainly to wake the others out of their trance. when it clearly isn’t working, Blake shoots at the brainball, and it disperses.
Avon deduces that the thing was a self-defence mechanism for the ship, and also that the escape-pods have been launched, meaning the ship has no crew on board at all. Blake gets the idea of stealing the ship, but Raiker has also worked out what he would try and do, an hurries across the transfer tube to stop him. Blake tries to close the liberator’s airlock hatch while Avon and Jenna work out the controls, but is shot in the air by Raiker. Before a kill-shot can be administered, The airlock closes and the liberator takes off, leaving one particular sad-geezer to fight a losing battle against a total vacuum.
Jenna ask what course they should set now. To Avon’s great distaste, Blake tells her to go to Cygnus Alpha to free the rest of the prisoners.
“With a ship like this and a full crew, then we CAN start fighting back”
and with that, and an incredibly hateful look by Avon, the show ends.
I loved Space Fall, it is one of my most-loved episodes although the episode ‘Blake’ tops my list by a long shot. Good story, good character development and Avon make up for the low budget. A very impressive kick-off to the series proper.
Blake’s 7 was is a British science fiction television series produced by the BBC. Four 13-episode series were broadcast on BBC1 between 1978 and 1981.
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