Sci-Fi Storm

Retro Review: Blake’s 7, Series 4

by on Apr.07, 2008, under Television

The past few weeks I finished off going through my Blake’s 7 VHS collection with Series 4, the final season of the BBC show. You’ve already lost your title character, now what are you going to do without your ship, arguably one of the “7” characters? Read More for thoughts on the final season.

At the end of Series 3, the Liberator was destroyed (with Servalan seemingly destroyed with it), and the crew stranded on the planet Terminal.

Series 4 starts when Servalan’s transport ship self-destructs, and explosives within the facility also detonate, leaving Cally dead and Tarrant injured, while Avon, Dayna, Vila and Orac relatively unscathed.

They are “rescued” by Dorian and brought back to his base aboard the freighter Scorpio, controlled by the very submissive (and appropriately named) computer Slave. At Xenon base, they meet Soolin, a blonde gunfighter and associate of Dorian.

They begin to suspect Dorian is more than he seems. He also has apparently been working on a teleport system both on the base and on Scorpio (previously unique to the Liberator and its builders), but hasn’t managed to get it to work. Eventually they find out Dorian’s true nature and defeat him, capture the base, and begin to use Scorpio to continue their “mission” against the Federation, which has been slowly rebuilding, using a new pacification program to subjugate star systems at an alarming rate, led by the faceless Commissioner Sleer…

It was hard letting go of the Liberator. Scorpio was a rather nondescript, boring, Wanderer-class freighter, with its only advantage a non-functioning teleport (until Orac puts some processing power to completing it). The set pieces were spartan, compared with the Liberator’s more luxury look. I often thought of the Liberator as some sort of luxury racing yacht, complete with the little lounge area in front of the control stations. Scorpio is more of a pickup truck.

Slave is a very different computer than Zen – rather annoying at times, and seemingly useless for an onboard computer. We also see computer displays really for the first time – but aside from some (often nonsensical) text scrolling by, they show countdowns with the effective resolution of an early model TRS-80, and I’m pretty sure that the display rate was such that it took longer than a second to count down each second.

Eventually they do “upgrade” Scorpio with a “stardrive”, and amazingly small piece of equipment that makes Scorpio faster than anything else, able to do a speed of Time Distort 12 in real time. Speaking of which, what does that mean? They never really explain how speeds are measured. Some times they say “Time Distort X”, sometimes “Standard by X”, so U don’t know if the stardrive was the equivalent to Standard by 12 or not. No matter – this feature of Scorpio is soon forgotten when convenient to the story, as they never seem to be able to outrun the ships actually shooting at them. Kind of like Liberator’s “negative hyperspace”, which once shown is never used again.

To make up for the loss of Cally, Soolin (played by Glynis Barber) joins the cast. This seemed an interesting choice of character, given that Dayna was already the gung-ho weapons expert. Soolin, however, comes off as more seasoned and experienced. I’m not sure how believable she was – for a gunfighter, the use of the gun seemed awkward, but that may have been due to those sheet-metal guns and holsters. Another little conveniently forgotten technology – the replaceable magazines that provided different types of ammo to the guns.

Pretty much the whole season revolves around Avon, and his seemingly more accepted role as the leader of the freedom fighters. In addition is his relationship with Servalan, which seems more like a relationship of lovers who can’t stand what each one does for a living. Most of the other characters are secondary.

The series culminates in the finale, “Blake”, which features the return of the title character as an apparent bounty hunter on Gauda Prime. What happens then I’ll explain later after some spoiler protection.

Overall, I felt this last series was rather weak, and pulled together only because it was renewed unexpectedly (literally announced when the last episode of Series 3 concluded on-air, before anyone knew it), and done more cheaply than before. There were still some good stories, it just wasn’t as good as the previous series.

Of course, there are some guest actors that might be recognizable to some. Christopher Neame, who has made various guest appearances on shows (Knight Two on Babylon 5 is the one I remember most), is Colonel Quute in “Traitor”; Richard Hurndall (Nebrox in episode “Assassin”) filled in for the late William Hartnell in the role of the First Doctor in the Doctor Who episode “The Five Doctors”; and Roy Kinnear (Keiller in “Gold”) appeared in many things, including the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers).

Is there a future for B7? Possibly. I know there has been some work behind the scenes involving Paul Darrow, who played Avon, in trying to come up with a follow on series that takes place some years later (and of course, involves Avon), but it doesn’t seem to have had much traction. However, in the current wave of remakes/reboots/reimaginings, I think B7 could be reborn again as a remade series, with better effects.

Spoilers appear below this point, regarding the final episode, “Blake”

The final episode sure seemed to be meant to be the FINAL episode – no last minute reprieve this time. Xenon base is destroyed (its location potentially having been compromised), Scorpio crash lands and is essentially destroyed, and there is the whole matter of the ending.

First, I didn’t find it very believable that Blake, under the guise of a bounty hunter, was starting to create a new band of freedom fighters and only had a couple of people on his side so far. Nor was the whole confrontation between Blake and Avon, Avon trying to look despondent at the fact that Blake allegedly turned them in to the Federation as he shoots Blake.

And then there is the whole massacre scene at the end. Each character, one by one, being “shot” by federation guards in slow motion without reaction from anyone else in the room. And then the guards just stand there, surrounding Avon, who is holding a gun – and don’t do anything until he raises his gun and smiles.

Of course, there could be arguments made that the crew survived – after all, Blake is the only one that is seen actually bleeding (apparently Gareth Thomas only agreed to appear if they would finally kill him off). It may have been left to be plausible that everyone else was only stunned, so that the show COULD be brought back. But I’ve never noticed the Federation guns having a stun setting.


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