Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.
When Blake decides to strike at Control, the Federation’s central computer system, it leads to a tragedy for the Liberator crew…
Series B, episode 5. Written by: Terry Nation. Directed by: George Spenton-Foster. Originally broadcast: 6 February 1979, BBC1.
Regulars (with running total of appearances):
* Travis (7) and Servalan (6) have been waiting in a secret bunker for 18 days – inside it’s all white, cold and sterile; outside it looks like a ramshackle cottage. Travis has laid a trap and insists that Blake will arrive soon. They then capture a local rebel leader called Kasabi (who coincidentally knew a young Servalan when they were cadets together) and torture her into giving away where and when she’s due to meet Blake.
* Blake (18) has set course for Earth without telling his crewmates because he wants to attack Control, the Federation’s chief computer bunker. Destroying it would cause the authorities real damage, he says. But when his local contact, Kasabi, fails to get in touch he starts to worry. Then the signal finally arrives. Unbeknownst to Blake, it’s been sent by Travis…
* Cally (15) – not for the first time – is the one colleague of Blake’s who agrees with his dangerous plans. She thinks his idea is a sound one, which makes sense given that we first met her as a guerrilla revolutionary. Despite this support, Blake doesn’t actually give her anything to do in the mission: she spends the whole episode aboard the Liberator.
* Avon (17) had guessed that Blake’s stated intention to skirt the solar system was a lie. But he nevertheless goes along with the idea to attack Control. His logic: if Blake’s rebellion takes hold he’ll be busy managing it and Avon can take command of the Liberator.
* Jenna (18) – as the de facto second-in-command – is the spokesperson for the others when they agree to Blake’s plan. Later, when there’s no word from Blake, Gan, Avon and Vila, who have all teleported down to Earth, she realises something’s gone amiss. She beams down too and saves the day.
* Vila (18) takes part in phase two of the mission. He and Avon teleport to a spot close to Control and recce its defences. The area is known as the Forbidden Zone, which raises the idle thought that perhaps Blake’s 7 and Planet of the Apes are set in the same fictional universe.
* Zen (16).
* Gan (17) joins Blake on his trip down to Earth. They find Kasabi’s daughter, Veron, who says her mother and all their colleagues have been killed. Gan is fatherly and protective towards her – so much so, he fails to spot that she’s lying. After Vila and Avon arrive, she knocks them all out with gas, steals their teleport bracelets and locks them in a church. (Earlier in the episode, Gan mentioned that he doesn’t know what a church is. ‘A place of religious assembly,’ explained Blake. ‘The Federation had them all destroyed at the beginning of the new calendar.’ What a lovely piece of writing. It implies lots of backstory without labouring the point.) Later, while escaping after a confrontation with Travis and Servalan, Gan is killed when a grenade explodes nearby…
Best bit: Blake and his friends return to Earth for the first time since the show’s opening story. Blake has changed in the 18 episodes since and his arrogance has grown and grown. ‘I think I can do it,’ he says as he pitches his fait accompli plan to the others. His fixation on the personal pronoun then returns when the Liberator team finally break into Control’s central room. ‘We’ve done it! We’ve done it! We’ve done it!’ Blake starts to say before adding: ‘I’ve done it!’ But then he realises the awful truth: the room is empty. It was a ploy, a decoy. Even Avon shows sympathy for Blake’s devastation.
Worst bit: The costumes in this show really are dreadful. Various members of the Liberator team (Vila and Cally in particular) are now dressing like demented hipsters, while Servalan has decided that her mission is so important she needs to wear a cocktail dress, a baroque collar and a wide-brimmed hat.
Review: Gan’s dead – the first of the gang to die. In truth, it’s no great loss. He never felt like a vital character and the small insight into his past we once got never really went anywhere.
Seven pacemakers implanted in my heart out of 10
Next episode: Trial