Still-Blake-less 7 continues into its fourth (and final) series, now without series regular Cally or the iconic ship Liberator. Can the show survive such a dramatic shift? Well, yes, it can, though it has yet to regain the momentum and quality the show had in the previous series. Let’s take a closer look at the first five episodes…
With the Liberator destroyed, the crew are stranded on the mysterious planet Terminal. The only means of escape lies in Servalan’s ship, which she has booby-trapped and Cally is killed in the ensuing explosion. The detonation also destroys the underground base and begins triggering chain reactions through the entire planet. Soon, a ship arrives called Scorpio, piloted by a shady salvage operator named Dorian, and the crew escape to new horizons…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Action pose! Well, Avon anyway… Tarrant and new girl Soolin look a bit lost…
Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) – Despite a cold nature, Avon finds himself the leader of his little group of rebels, and now that the Federation has begun to expand once more, he is more determined than ever to see them fall.
Vila Restal (Michael Keating) – Cowardly and sarcastic master thief, Vila is the only other (human) person who has been here since the start, along with Avon. Despite this, he still hasn’t gained any bravery. Oh well.
Dayna Mellanby (Josette Simon) – Bad-ass female gun specialist who sadly doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to show it. Still, she’s good for a laugh, or something.
Del Tarrant (Steven Pacey) – Formally an arrogant tosser, now much less of a knob and has little issue taking orders from Avon, rather than being the replacement Blake like he started off being.
Orac (Peter Tuddenham) – Super-intelligent A.I. that can hack Federation computers, among other activities. Has a bit of an attitude problem, except when dealing with Avon, who seems to be the only one who it respects.
Soolin (Glynis Barber) – A… woman. Who is quite tough, apparently. In these five episodes she barely does anything. Fingers crossed she actually gets a role going, otherwise she seems to be here just so the show’s 7 can still make sense, even if the Blake part doesn’t anymore…
Slave (Peter Tuddenham) – The A.I. onboard the Scorpio, the crew’s new ship. His demeanour lacks confidence and it generally lives up to its name, which is a bit cruel really… if you can be cruel to an A.I…
Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce) – Despite being superbly written off in the previous series’ finale, Servalan is back and appearing in multiple episodes again. Now using the alias Commissioner Sleer, as Servalan was declared dead and wouldn’t be welcome with the new Federation leaders…
“I’m perfectly sane, you know!”
Episode 4, “Stardrive”, has to be my favourite of the bunch. A Mad Max-esque group of punks has got a genius scientist on their side creating super-fast stardrives for their ships, and it catches the eye of Avon and co. There is a lot to like about how over-the-top the “Spacerats” are, especially against the backdrop of the more subdued characters like Avon and Tarrant. Dr. Plaxton, the aforementioned scientist, is also straight laced, and it all leads to a rather harsh climax where she is hastily attaching the Stardrive to Scorpio and Avon gives the order to blast off immediately to avoid danger, knowingly killing Dr. Plaxton in the process. It was a bit of a shocker, I thought the idea of the series would be that they build up people for a full-on rebel base at their new location, so I assumed Plaxton was the first. But nope! A very fun episode all round.
Episode 1, “Rescue”, is a decent semi-reboot. Cally’s death is poorly handled, but then getting off-screen’d is a hazard when you don’t return in between seasons. The way our cast take over the Scorpio and ride it back to a base they then have their eye on is good fun, with Avon and Tarrant, two characters who have always been closer to villains than heroes, doing well with their threats. When it gets to the base is when it gets weird. Dorian, the person who had Scorpio, is actually ageless due to a weird creature he keeps in the basement, leading to Doctor Who-ish monster showdown climax, complete with Dorian aging to death when the creature is defeated. Now, Dorian Gray reference aside, this was certainly a strange and rather un-Blake’s 7-y way to start the series!
Episode 3, “Traitor”, is alright. Doesn’t belong in the Bad, but it’s not great either. The Federation is rapidly expanding again thanks to a mind-controlling drug (delivered via a laser gun shot, for some reason… looks cool is my guess!) and Tarrant and Dayna are sent to investigate and get a possible cure. It’s this episode that reveals Servalan is back, but I’ll get to that later. The episode has a few twists and turns and continually entertained, but it doesn’t really stick in my memory…
It looks like two guards have found Dayna, rather than ally Tarrant being on the right… that’s all I think of for that pic. I was in a hurry with the screen grabs this time…
Episode 2, “Power”, is … another Ben Steed script, and funnily enough deals with women being subservient to men again! This time Avon and co. see that the life on their new base’s planet has an old fashion tribe-like culture, but one where society has divided into male and female tribes, and the males continually enslave the women and have them bare their children before disposing them. The women, called the Seska, have some small amount of telekinetic powers, and by the end of the story, are all wiped out. It’s just… not very good. The only enjoyment I got was laughing to myself about how the story was once again actually focused on women being weaker than men… Mr. Steed really did have a viewpoint he liked to push, didn’t he?
Episode 5, “Animals”, only just falls into the Bad category for me. I appreciate the anti-lab experiment message, and I definitely like that Dayna got a bigger role and some sort of background and development, but something about the episode didn’t engage me. Seeing Dayna hypnotised by Servalan to hate the person she actually loves, and betray him, then have her switch back so she can later mourn his death… it just… didn’t click and I found quite a bit of it dull. Didn’t help that I was still a little bitter about Servalan being back, even though I do like the character in her remorseless evil-ness. Speaking of that…
Outside of specific episode talk, I was disappointed to see Servalan back. She was written out so well at the end of Series 3 that now when I watch that last episode the joy of Avon’s smirk at the end of the episode is ruined. Oh well… Also, the new A.I. sounds like it should be on Rainbow or some other kids show where they have some sort of silly voiced slow witted character. It was kind of annoying.
That’s what you call pointing a gun with swagger!
Series 4 gets off to a decent start, but fails to capture the fun and scale of the previous series, and in fact manages to ruin one of the best parts about it. The new ship isn’t as visually interesting, the new A.I. sounds a bit crap and the new female character fails to make any impression at all. Yet, through all that, it’s still a fun watch, and Avon and Vila still provide plenty of smirk material.
Episode 4 “Stardrive”:
Episode 1 “Rescue”, 3 “Traitor” and 5 “Animals”:
Episode 2 “Power”: