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Blake's 7 logo

A guide to Terry Nation's TV sci-fi classic

B L A K E' S - 7

Blake's 7 logo

LiberatorBLAKE'S 7 was a big influence in getting me hooked on science-fiction. The late 1970's were a good time to be a science-fiction fan: Star Wars had redefined the film genre, Doctor Who was at its peak and suddenly there was an all new sci-fi drama from the BBC; Blake's 7. The brain-child of Terry 'Dalek' Nation, the series followed the exploits of a group of rebels fighting an evil Federation. Budgets were low, special effects were primitive and the sets were often laughable. So what made the show so memorable? The writing was excellent, the characters well-defined and the cast were superb. Take note, programme makers; it is as simple as that.

Blake's 7 took the Doctor Who invention of multi-episode story arcs and developed a narrative across the entire run. All thirteen episodes in Season One were penned by the late great Terry Nation and it shows: there is a nice continuity in the way the tale flows from one week to the next, though the season does have the weakest finale of the four. Season Two saw a shift towards using other writers for various episodes, with the underlying quest for the location of the Federation control centre keeping the story developing from one week to the next.

Season Three seemed to lose its way; stories focused too much on President Servalan's desire to seize the mighty spaceship Liberator (pictured), with no overall scheme behind the still often excellent weekly storylines. Rebel leader Blake had left the series at the end of season two and it was left to cool dude Avon to continue the fight. The destruction of the Liberator at the end of the third series was a blow to fans (the cast and crew were not expecting to get another series), but when Season Four did arrive the changes forced the writers to try harder. This final series again had continuity; it also had a finale which was famously brutal to the extreme. The carnage of episode 'Blake' was possibly the darkest ending of any sci-fi show ever. Had there been a fifth series, cast members who wanted to return would have been deemed to have miraculously survived, but alas it was not to be.

Gareth Thomas, the Welsh actor most remembered for his role as Roj Blake, sadly passed away on 13 April 2016 aged 71. Rumours briefly surfaced in 2008 that the UK satellite channel Sky One and the US cable channel Syfy were developing a new version of Blake's 7 for television, but these came to nothing. In 2013, Microsoft were said to be developing a new concept for a modern audience; again, this appeared to be another red herring to tantilise (and irritate) fans. Television science-fiction exists merely at the whim of programmers - on the one hand, Doctor Who has made a very successful return; yet on the other, the excellent Blake's 7-esque Firefly (by Joss 'Buffy' Whedon) was axed before the first series had completed its run. Further Blake's 7 audio adventures exist and the original BBC series is available to buy, so maybe one day the powers-that-be will decide there are more tales to tell (let me know if you want a writer!). Teleport now!! Steph.

Season One

Producer: David Maloney; Script Editor: Chris Boucher.

Episode 1: The Way Back (First broadcast 2/1/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Michael E. Briant.

The future is a cut-price concrete Logan's Run, controlled by the Gestapo-like Terran Federation of Planets. Eponymous hero Roj Blake (Gareth Thomas), unaware his memory has been rearranged by the Federation to make him a model citizen, learns he was once a major resistance leader. Blake's voyage of self-rediscovery barely gets underway before he is arrested, tried for nasty crimes he did not commit and sentenced to exile on Cygnus Alpha. Blonde bombshell ex-smuggler Jenna (Sally Knyvette) and cowardly thief Vila (Michael Keating), the latter having the distinction of being the only character to appear in all 52 episodes, take a shine to Blake just as his world is falling apart.

Episode 2: Space Fall (First broadcast 9/1/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Pennant Roberts.

En route to the penal colony of Cygnus Alpha, Blake recruits the services of computer genius and supreme lord of sarcasm Avon (Paul Darrow), tries to hijack the prison ship and fails. Subsequent events are interrupted when the crew detect a battle ahead, then encounter an alien spaceship drifting in space. The mysterious spacecraft attracts a lot of attention, probably because its distinctive Arabic-esque styling makes it stand out a mile compared to the Doctor Who cast-off props used elsewhere. A boarding party of officers is killed by the alien ship's security system, so troublesome prisoners Blake, Jenna and Avon are sent aboard as guinea pigs. Blake disarms the security system, helped by the scrambled memories the Federation planted in his brain. The onboard computer Zen (voiced by Peter Tuddenham) names the ship Liberator after seeing the name in Jenna's mind; Jenna herself shows the boys what she's made of and works out the flight controls of the alien ship in no time at all. (Just like "going round Hyde Park Corner on a moped..." Whoops, wrong show.)

Episode 3: Cygnus Alpha (First broadcast 16/1/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

Blake decides that a bunch of dodgy convicts would make an excellent crew for the Liberator and they follow the prison ship to Cygnus Alpha. Blake bravely tries the alien teleport system for the first time (no doubt encouraged by Jenna's earlier amazing guesswork with the flight controls) and travels to the surface to rescue the prisoners. Meanwhile, Avon is having doubts as to the wisdom of hanging around with an idealist rebel like Blake. This episode features a typically over-the-top Brian "Gordon's alive!" Blessed as the High Priest Vargas. Blake manages to free his old convict friends Vila and brawns-not-brains Gan (David Jackson), who join the crew of the Liberator.

Episode 4: Time Squad (First broadcast 23/1/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Pennant Roberts.

The movie library in the Liberator is obviously missing a copy of Alien, for when the crew discover an escape pod containing aliens in suspended animation they think bringing them aboard is a jolly clever thing to do. Blake, Vila and Avon then decide to teleport to Saurian Major to meet with the local rebels and attack the planet's communication complex. They meet up with one of the rebels, an initially hostile Cally (Jan Chappell), before proceeding to wreak havoc upon all things Federation. Meanwhile, the aliens are doing likewise aboard the Liberator, much to Jenna and Gan's joy. Cally joins the crew and Blake finally has his seven; counting Zen, that is.

Episode 5: The Web (First broadcast 30/1/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Michael E. Briant.

Cally has a telepathic mindstorm and decides to please her new friends by sabotaging the Liberator, which ends up trapped in a strange web-like structure around an unknown world. The planet is inhabited by two genetically-engineered humanoids and a race of creatures called the Decimas; all are creations of beings exiled from Cally's home planet of Auron. For a price, the Aurons will release the Liberator from their web, but if Blake agrees he will be providing the Aurons the means to commit genocide against the Decimas. What a dilemma! It all ends messily, of course.

Episode 6: Seek - Locate - Destroy (First broadcast 6/2/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

During an attack on a Federation installation, Blake and Avon steal a decoder vital to help them monitor Federation communications. Later, back on the Liberator and celebrating their extreme cleverness, they realise Cally has been carelessly left behind. Investigating the attack is Federation bad boy Travis (Stephen Greiff), who discovers the theft and uses prisoner Cally to set a trap for Blake. The Federation are becoming aware of what the Liberator is capable of and quite understandably want the spacecraft for themselves. Blake, using his brains for once rather than trusting to luck, outsmarts Travis and rescues Cally. This episode also sees the first appearance of the gloriously-attired poison minx Supreme Commander Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce); definitely the best-dressed villain in space opera ever.

Episode 7: Mission to Destiny (First broadcast 13/2/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Pennant Roberts.

The Liberator comes across the space cruiser Ortega circling in space, its guidance systems sabotaged and the crew drugged into unconsciousness. They were en-route to their home planet of Destiny with a highly valuable neurotope, vital to save their planet's agriculture from rampaging fungus. However, the pilot has been murdered and before you know it, Avon has become a veritable Miss Marple in an Agatha Christie-style web of deception and intrigue. It was Professor Plum, in the conservatory, with the candlestick. No, not really.

Episode 8: Duel (First broadcast 20/2/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Douglas Camfield.

Federation cad Travis unsportingly decides to attack the Liberator while it is recharging its energy banks and unable to run away. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Blake tries to ram Travis' ship. Imagine their surprise when moments before the collision, an alien goddess on the planet below freezes time and transports Blake and Travis down to the planet's surface in order for them to battle it out face-to-face. Blake gets Jenna to help/hinder him, while Travis is joined by one of his vampire-like mutoid crew. More by luck than judgement, Blake triumphs over Travis but shows mercy by refusing to kill him. I should mention that there is more than a passing resemblance between this episode and 'Arena', an episode from the first series of Kirk-era Star Trek...

Episode 9: Project Avalon (First Broadcast 27/2/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Michael E. Briant.

The Avalon of the title is another rebel, who after being captured by the Federation is taken for interrogation by Travis and Servalan, the latter now established as sultry, stylish, scheming and severely bad news for the health of anyone in her way. A pre-Soolin Glynis Barber also makes a brief appearance as a mutoid. Travis hatches a plan to use Avalon as bait with which to capture Blake and the Liberator. Blake and his comrades free Avalon from the Federation base, only to find they have rescued an android replica programmed to poison the crew. Blake and Avon manage to turn the trap on Travis and Servalan, rescuing the real Avalon in the process. Well done, chaps.

Episode 10: Breakdown (First Broadcast 6/3/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

Gan's limiter, an electronic device embedded in his skull that prevents him going berserk, malfunctions and he starts performing his bad-tempered Incredible Hulk routine. Avon directs the Liberator to a nearby medical facility; a neutral space station which he secretly hopes will provide him with a safe hiding place from the Federation and Blake's idealistic foolhardiness. Groan-inducing 'special effects' come into play when the Liberator passes too close to a hidden black hole on the way. The station's medics agree to help Gan, while Jenna gets in some wonderful retorts to the chauvinistic remarks of the surgeons. The neurosurgeon turns out to be not so neutral after all and decides to let the Federation know who is parked outside, so he only had himself to blame when the incoming pursuit ships manage to miss the Liberator altogether and blast him and his space station into oblivion instead.

Episode 11: Bounty (First Broadcast 13/3/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Pennant Roberts.

Blake learns that President Sarkoff, the deposed leader of Lindor, is being held captive by the Federation. His 'prison' is a well-appointed Victorian folly crammed with twentieth-century Earth memorabilia, set in the middle of a well-guarded forest. The president even has a vintage automobile at his disposal, making the whole episode somewhat reminiscent of Pertwee-era Doctor Who. Blake and Cally teleport in to try and convince Sarkoff that he is needed back on Lindor to lead the revolt against Federation rule. Meanwhile, the Liberator answers a distress call from another spacecraft and is promptly boarded by pirates. The leader of these interstellar ruffians is an old acquaintance of Jenna's and for a while it seems as if she is having trouble remembering where her allegiancies lie.

Episode 12: Deliverance (First Broadcast 20/3/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Michael E. Briant.

Blake and his fellow rebels track a stricken spacecraft that crash-lands on a nearby planet, unaware they have witnessed Servalan skullduggery. They teleport down and rescue the only survivor, carelessly losing Jenna in the process. Vila, Avon and Gan return to the surface to search for Jenna, who has been abducted by natives. Avon finds the female caretaker of the original inhabitants of the planet and finds himself worshipped as a god, which he doesn't seem to mind at all. The caretaker presides over a rocket loaded with the gene banks of her race, waiting for someone clever to come along and launch it for her. 'Lord' Avon launches the rocket, rescues Jenna and generally does everything expected of a god. Back on the Liberator, the survivor of the crash reveals he was taking power cells and a surgeon (now dead) to his dying father, the scientist Ensor. He was also to deliver a cryptic message: the Federation are willing to pay 100 million credits (about £50 in today's money, judging by the special-effects budget) for something called Orac.

Episode 13: Orac (First Broadcast 27/3/78)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

The Liberator journeys to Aristo to deliver the power cells to scientist Ensor, the father of the pilot from the previous episode and creator of the mysterious Orac. Jenna, Avon, Vila and Gan are also suffering from radiation sickness and in need of anti-radiation drugs, though Avon's ego is so inflated after last week's story nothing can confine him to his quarters this time. Bad boy Travis and space vixen Servalan also appear on the scene, eager to get their hands on Orac. But of course, it is Blake who ends up holding Orac (voiced by Peter Tuddenham), the box of magical flashing lights, limitless knowledge and caustic vocabulary, after Ensor dies. After being teleported to safety, Orac is asked to predict the future and cheers everyone up no end by showing an image of the Liberator being blown to bits.

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Season Two

Producer: David Maloney; Script Editor: Chris Boucher.

Episode 1: Redemption (First Broadcast 9/1/79)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

The Liberator is attacked by unknown ships, which take control of Zen before whisking Blake and his fellow rebels to a distant part of the galaxy. The Liberator has been reclaimed by its original builders, The System, who imprison both ship and crew within a giant space station. Whilst awaiting their execution, Jenna remarks it couldn't possibly get any worse; Avon disagrees and points out that they are at the location where Orac predicted the destruction of the Liberator. Fortunately for our heroes, The System had not reckoned on Vila's talent at opening locked doors and Orac's ability to meddle with technological wizardry. Against the odds, the crew manage to reclaim their adopted spacecraft. During their escape, they are pursued by the Liberator's sister ship, which promptly blows up. Clever clogs Orac arranged a little sabotage, thus making his prediction come true. This is the only episode that deals with the Liberator's origins, which The System (who obviously lack imagination) refer to as Deep Space Vehicle Two. Presumeably, Orac blew up Deep Space Vehicle One, callously killing everyone aboard. It is never made clear whether The System were insured.

Episode 2: Shadow (First Broadcast 16/1/79)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: Jonathan Wright Miller.

In his unending crusade against the Federation, Blake tries to enlist the help of a Mafia-type crime syndicate, the Terra Nostra. It controls the distribution of an addictive drug called Shadow, a highly-profitable enterprise. Blake and his comrades unearth a web of corruption and it emerges that Terra Nostra is actually run by the Federation (what a surprise!). A parallel plot deals with a strange alien entity that is trying to use Orac to break free from another dimension. Telepath Cally becomes aware, leading to some disturbing scenes where it looks like the plastic box of lights has flipped his diodes and is mentally torturing Cally. Very weird. The moral of this episode? Don't do drugs, kids; especially whilst watching this episode.

Episode 3: Weapon (First Broadcast 23/1/79)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: George Spenton-Foster.

This story centres around a new weapon called IMIPAK, created by a renegade Federation technician, which allows the user to mark their targets and then kill them at leisure any time afterwards. Servalan gets the Clonemasters to create two clones of Blake, which she uses to try and capture this new weapon and Blake himself. Impetuous Travis (played by Brian Croucher in season two) kills one of the clones straight away. The second clone rebels and helps the crew of the Liberator foil Servalan's scheme by preventing the weapon's trigger from being used. This clone of Blake is never referred to again, except by writers of fan fiction who use it as a way of resurrecting the titular leader after the rather bloody finale.

Episode 4: Horizon (First Broadcast 30/1/79)

Written by Allan Prior; Director: Jonathan Wright Miller.

Avon finds himself alone on the Liberator after the rest of the crew are captured by Federation guards after teleporting down onto the planet Horizon. They are put to work in a mine, unaware that Avon is seriously considering abandoning them. Obviously he doesn't, but only because events make it his own best interests not to leave Blake and company behind. He's all heart, Avon.

Episode 5: Pressure Point (First Broadcast 6/2/79)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: George Spenton-Foster.

Buoyed by his recent success, Blake decides to return to Earth and destroy Federation Control; his reasoning being this would leave Federation forces in disarray. However, his luck is stretched to the limit and what they find on Earth is not what they expected, though everyone watching knew Servalan and Travis were bound to turn up sooner or later. Jenna comes to the rescue but Blake gets his first taste of defeat when Gan is killed during their escape.

Episode 6: Trial (First Broadcast 13/2/79)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: Derek Martinus.

Blake decides to try the life of a monk and strands himself on a lonely planet to contemplate the death of Gan. He meets a bizarre humanoid who turns out to be some sort of infestation on the sentient planet (some sort of non-subtle environmental message?). When the planet decides to react to all this activity, Avon surprises himself by rescuing Blake from being eaten by an earthquake. Meanwhile, Travis has been taken to Servalan's space station and put on trial for the deaths of civilians. Back on the Liberator, Blake decides to continue the fight, but inadvertently does Travis a favour when they attack the very same space station. In the confusion, Travis escapes, having received Servalan's unofficial blessing to carry on hunting Blake.

Episode 7: Killer (First Broadcast 20/2/79)

Written by Robert Holmes; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

The Liberator travels to a Federation base, where Blake and his fellow rebels hope to persuade an old colleague of Avon's to provide them with a vital communications crystal. While they are there, a derelict spacecraft is brought in, bringing with it a deadly virus. It turns out that this virus was genetically engineered by an unknown alien race, whose sole motive was to prevent humans expanding throughout the galaxy. This episode plays out like a Doctor Who story with Blake in the Doctor's role, but looks odd with renegade Roj telling scientists what to do. It's worth mentioning that Blake's 7 was stylistically very similar to Doctor Who at that time and rumoured to be set in the same fictional universe. Tom Baker wanted to appear in a Blake's 7 episode - just to have the Doctor and Blake exchange greetings in passing - but it never came to anything.

Episode 8: Hostage (First Broadcast 27/2/79)

Written by Allan Prior; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

After narrowly escaping destruction in a Federation ambush, the Liberator receives a message from Travis, now a renegade himself. Travis has captured Blake's cousin and is claiming he wants to join forces with Blake and his fellow rebels. Blake attempts a rescue alone, but Avon is feeling guilty after secretly notifying Servalan of Travis' location and so he and Vila follow Blake to try and prevent a potential trap. Carelessly, all three are captured and Vila is forced to teleport one of Travis' men onto the Liberator. Travis, of course, never intended to make a deal with Blake but wants the Liberator for himself. Fortunately, Jenna and Cally make up for the lack of brains amongst their male colleagues and foil Travis' plans.

Episode 9: Countdown (First Broadcast 6/3/79)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

Blake and his crew journey to the planet Albion, where they hope to find a certain Federation officer who knows the whereabouts of Star One, the Federation central control. They find the base on Albion under attack by rebels led by an old acquaintance of Avon's, Del Grant. He gives Avon a frosty reception as he believes Avon deserted his sister, Anna Grant, whilst on the run from the Federation. However, an even frostier reception awaits them both at the planet's pole as they join forces to defuse a Federation time bomb threatening to reduce Albion to rubble. Albion is the mythical name for Britain, in case you didn't know. It explains the cut-glass RADA accents heard during this episode (and the rest of the series).

Episode 10: Voice From The Past (First Broadcast 13/3/79)

Written by Roger Parkes; Director: George Spenton-Foster.

Hidden memories implanted in Blake's brain are reawakened by a telepathic transmitter, summoning him to a lonely asteroid. There he meets revolutionaries Shivar and Governor le Grand, who are hatching a plot to overthrow the leadership of the Federation. Just to complicate matters, a disguised Travis is also on the asteroid, planted there by an ever-devious Servalan. She's remarkably hands-on for a politician.

Episode 11: Gambit (First Broadcast 20/3/79)

Written by Robert Holmes; Director: George Spenton-Foster.

The Liberator arrives at Freedom City, a sort-of Las Vegas in space without the Elvis impersonators, on the trail of a man called Docholli who supposedly knows the location of Star One. He doesn't, but is able to point Blake, Jenna and Cally in the right direction. Meanwhile, Avon and Vila have sneaked into the casino and are busy breaking the bank and beating chess grandmasters with the help of a miniaturised Orac. Servalan and Travis are also present, leading to the usual scenes of political intrigue, double crossing and general discord. This is a fun episode and a favourite of fans.

Episode 12: The Keeper (First Broadcast 27/3/79)

Written by Allan Prior; Director: Derek Martinus.

The information given by Docholli takes the Liberator to the medieval planet of Goth. (Despite conjuring up images of pale faces, black clothes and Saturday afternoons at London's Camden market, it's actually more like a cut-price Game Of Thrones.) There they hope to find an amulet containing a brain print, which in turn holds information on the location of Star One. There is some spirited good fun as Jenna takes a more central role for once; the king selects her as his mistress, while Vila literally gets to play the fool. In a neat twist at the end, Blake finds what they are looking for.

Episode 13: Star One (First Broadcast 3/4/79)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: David Maloney.

Blake and company finally reach the Federation control centre Star One and find themselves at the forefront of an imminent invasion by alien forces from the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy. Avon kills Travis, who had planned to take over the complex himself in the pursuit of power. Blake, on the other hand, had intended to destroy Star One but changes his mind when he realises the whole galaxy was now under threat by the alien battle fleet. The season comes to end with the Liberator fighting alongside the Federation in a battle of galactic proportions. This is also the last time Jenna is seen. Terry Nation was eager for Blake's 7 to share the same fictional universe as Doctor Who and wanted the aliens to be the Daleks, but for one reason or another was persuaded otherwise. I wonder if the new Doctor Who will ever reference Blake's 7?

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Season Three

Producer: David Maloney; Script Editor: Chris Boucher.

Episode 1: Aftermath (First Broadcast 7/1/80)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

The series starts where the last one left off with the Liberator in battle. With their ship badly damaged and unable to sustain life support, the crew are forced to abandon the Liberator while it repairs itself. Avon, Vila and Cally become separated; Blake and Jenna are not seen but it is made clear they escaped to safety. Avon's escape pod lands on a nearby planet and meets new ally Dayna (Josette Simon), the warrior-like daughter of an exiled revolutionary. He also finds a marooned Servalan and learns that Star One was destroyed during the battle. Despite being the victors, the Federation is now in disarray. There are some priceless scenes as they both try to outwit each other for control of Orac and thus the Liberator.

Episode 2: Powerplay (First Broadcast 14/1/80)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: David Maloney.

Avon and Dayna return to the newly-repaired Liberator and discover it has been taken over by curly-haired pilot Tarrant (Steven Pacey), an idealistic mercenary posing as a Federation officer. Tarrant realises Avon was one of Blake's comrades and contrives to deal with the Federation troops also aboard. Meanwhile, Vila has landed in what at first seems to be paradise, which quickly turns sour as he finds himself with Cally aboard a medical ship about to become spare parts for surgery. The Liberator rescues them in the nick of time and they rejoin the crew, which is now under Avon's command. Despite what Tarrant thinks.

Episode 3: Volcano (First Broadcast 21/1/80)

Written by Allen Prior; Director: Desmond McCarthy.

The Liberator arrives at the volcanic planet of Obsidian, lured by rumours that Blake is there and the hope that the planet may serve as a rebel base. The inhabitants have buried a nuclear device in the planet's core to prevent the planet from being overtaken by the Federation (if they'd seen the episode 'Countdown' they would have known not to bother). Servalan has set a trap for the Liberator, which despite numerous attacks lives to fight another day.

Episode 4: Dawn Of The Gods (First Broadcast 28/1/80)

Written by James Follett; Director: Desmond McCarthy.

Clearly getting ideas above his station, Orac the arrogant decides to satisfy his curiosity by steering the Liberator towards what appears to be a black hole. It turns out to be the artificial planet of Crador, whose gravity-generating machinery captures the Liberator and parks it inside a mysterious black chamber. The crew battle with metal-crunching Robot Wars contenders and a megalomaniac dwarf before finally making their escape. No, I'm not making this up. Cally gets to play the hero in this one.

Episode 5: The Harvest Of Kairos (First Broadcast 4/2/80)

Written by Ben Steed; Director: Gerald Blake.

Servalan finally sets foot aboard the Liberator, thanks to a rather devious scheme hatched by former critical subordinate Jarvik, helped along by Tarrant's contagious dim-wittedness. Forced to surrender their ship, Avon and company find themselves stranded on the planet Kairos below. However, they find a convenient lunar lander (honest!) ready for take off and coupled with Avon's technical wizardry with a friendly rock, they manage to trick Servalan into abandoning ship. How? I'm not even going to bother to try and explain; this is Blake's 7 at its silliest.

Episode 6: The City At The Edge Of The World (First Broadcast 11/2/80)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

In exchange for crystals needed for the Liberator's weapon systems, a pig-headed Tarrant offers Vila's expertise to the people of Keezarn, much to Vila's dismay. All he has to do is open a door, one which Bayban the Berserker (Colin Baker, who is really good in this and should have played more villains) believes conceals a treasure trove. Armed with his box of tricks and a script filled with sarcasm, wit and charm, Vila finds a gateway to another world and gets the girl. Vila's best episode ever and one worth watching again and again.

Episode 7: Children Of Auron (First Broadcast 18/2/80)

Written by Roger Parkes; Director: Andrew Morgan.

In one of her more ruthless moods, Servalan releases a plague upon the people of Auron to lure the Liberator to Cally's home world. Her inflight movie must have been The Boys From Brazil, as Servalan is also planning to use the facilities on Auron to produce clones in her own image. Of course, she fails to capture the Liberator and thankfully the galaxy is also spared an influx of baby Servalans. An interesting episode from both Servalan's and Cally's point of view. This season sees Cally teaming up with Avon a lot more and it makes an interesting contrast against newbies Tarrant and Dayna.

Episode 8: Rumours Of Death (First Broadcast 25/2/80)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: Fiona Cumming.

Avon hatches an elaborate plan to find Shrinker, the Federation torturer whom he believes murdered his former girlfriend Anna Grant. However, he learns that Anna is still alive and deeply involved with the Federation in ways he initially refuses to believe. The story takes the crew of the Liberator to the Federation presidential palace, where Avon finds his Anna involved in a plot to overthrow the leadership. In the cellar, he also finds Servalan in chains. Which was nice.

Episode 9: Sarcophagus (First Broadcast 3/3/80)

Written by Tanith Lee; Director: Fiona Cumming.

The Liberator happens upon a drifting funeral barge. An artefact brought on board has a strange effect upon Cally, who ends up becoming possessed by an alien life force. Avon saves the day by forcing Cally to choose between the alien within and her feelings for her colleagues. This episode does drag at first and is littered with whimsical shots, set to music, of the Liberator in flight. However, it has some good ideas and is well-worth seeing for the finale, in which arrogant Tarrant is put firmly in his place. Hurrah!

Episode 10: Ultraworld (First Broadcast 10/3/80)

Written by Trevor Hoyle; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

The Liberator is captured by the artificial planet Ultraworld, which turns out to be a giant computer bent on gathering information, whatever the cost (Star Trek: The Movie, anyone?). Tarrant and Dayna get their chance to be the heroes, while Avon and Cally end up having their minds sucked dry and deposited in jars (obviously this turns out to be reversible, though the comic potential of swapping jars is sadly not realised). Vila saves the day by telling riddles to Orac, who uses the thief's illogical thinking to baffle the giant brain at the heart of Ultraworld. Considering the miniscule budget the programme-makers had to work with, this episode features some good shots (for the time) of the Liberator being held inside and later breaking free of the artificial planet.

Episode 11: Moloch (First Broadcast 17/3/80)

Written by Ben Steed; Director: Vere Lorrimer.

The crew of the Liberator secretly follow Servalan to the invisible planet of Sardos, which they discover by nearly crashing into it. After teleporting with Tarrant into a spaceship bound for the surface, Vila finds himself newly-recruited as a mercenary and briefly has the pleasure of holding Servalan at gunpoint before cocking-up big time in his usual style. The Federation commander in change of the planet's facilities is building a private battle fleet with the help of some clever matter-replication technology. The genius behind it all is a super-advanced being called Moloch. Super-advanced? Imagine a one-eyed anorexic Yoda floating in a fish tank. What impressed me most was how Avon kept a straight face.

Episode 12: Death-Watch (First Broadcast 24/3/80)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: Gerald Blake.

The Liberator takes a trip to see the big fight: the Teal and Vandor systems are at war, with each system fielding a champion in order to settle the dispute via a duel. On one side is Deeta, Tarrant's brother. His opponent turns out to be a gun-fighting android, planted by 'impartial' judge Servalan who is hoping to trigger a real war between Teal and Vandor. After Deeta is killed, Tarrant challenges the android to a rematch in order to thwart Servalan's plans. How do you beat a cheat? By bending the rules yourself, of course, which is easy if you happen to have Orac on your side.

Episode 13: Terminal (First Broadcast 31/3/80)

Written by Terry Nation; Director: Mary Ridge.

Avon takes over the Liberator and guided by a series of mysterious messages, finds his way to the man-made planetoid of Terminal. Unfortunately, on the way he forced the ship to navigate through a cloud of unfriendly enzymes and these are now feasting upon the spacecraft's hull. Avon has come in search of Blake, whom he believes sent the messages. He does appear to find Blake, but nothing is as it seems as Terminal is shrouded in a web of deception spun by Servalan (who else?). Back on the Liberator, Vila and Dayna discover the enzymes are too much for the auto-repair systems and Zen 'dies' in a moment of genuine sadness. Unaware of all this, Servalan traps Avon into giving her the Liberator, which Vila and Dayna only too gladly hand over. Revelling in her victory, Servalan takes control of the Liberator, which promptly falls apart before exploding. Avon and company are left stranded, while Servalan is last seen falling into the teleport cubicle.

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Season Four

Producer: Vere Lorrimer; Script Editor: Chris Boucher.

Episode 1: Rescue (First Broadcast 28/8/81)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: Mary Ridge.

Sadly, Cally never makes it from the wreckage of the bunker on Terminal, falling victim to Servalan's on-going sabotage. Dorian, owner of the freighter Scorpio, appears just in time to rescue the remainder of the crew, though his intentions are far from honourable. This episode is to The Picture Of Dorian Gray what The Forbidden Planet is to The Tempest. Did that make sense? Instead of a horrible portrait in his attic, Dorian has an equally foul monster soaking up his evil in his basement, which he plans to replace with the crew of the Liberator and his own colleague Soolin (Glynis Barber). Dorian also needs Orac to help perfect a teleport mechanism for Scorpio, which features a submissive computer called Slave (voiced by Peter Tuddenham). A drunken and distrustful Vila saves the day, Dorian gets the business end of a blaster and the tempestuous Soolin decides she's better off with Avon and company.

Episode 2: Power (First Broadcast 5/10/81)

Written by Ben Steed; Director: Mary Ridge.

After seeing off Dorian in the last episode, Avon and company find the Scorpio still out of reach thanks to an unfriendly security system set to explode at any time. A battle between the sexes amongst the planet's natives isn't helping at all, especially when one of them manages to steal the Scorpio for herself. Clever Avon saves the day by getting Dorian's teleport system to work. With a little help from Orac, that is.

Episode 3: Traitor (First Broadcast 12/10/81)

Written by Robert Holmes; Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot.

The Scorpio travels to the planet Helotrix, which is under attack by the Federation. Tarrant and Dayna teleport to the surface to investigate a new pacification drug the Federation is now using in its on-going conquest of star systems. Who should they meet but their old foe Servalan? Having been deposed of her Federation presidency (and miraculously escaping the exploding Liberator), she is now going under the alias Commissioner Sleer. Well, you can't have heroes without villains and she already has the killer wardrobe.

Episode 4: Stardrive (First Broadcast 19/10/81)

Written by James Follett; Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot.

Searching for a new drive system for faster-than-a-speeding-snail Scorpio, Avon's brain overheats and he suggests sneaking into a Federation system by hiding behind an asteroid. After hitting the aforementioned lump of rock, the crew witness the destruction of a Federation patrol by a Space Rat, whose tiny spacecraft was clearly powered by something the Scorpio could dearly use. The trail leads them to an ex-Federation engineer who is developing an experimental stardrive for the Space Rat terrorists. She and the stardrive are liberated by Avon and crew, but thanks to Avon's skills of vicious self-preservation, her time aboard the Scorpio is extremely short-lived.

Episode 5: Animals (First Broadcast 26/10/81)

Written by Allen Prior; Director: Mary Ridge.

The Scorpio delivers Dayna to her old friend Justin, then abandons her after becoming severely battered during an attack (Scorpio, not Justin). Avon and company hope to use Justin's genetic-engineering skills to synthesise an antidote to the Federation pacification drug. Unfortunately, Servalan shows up with plans to use Justin's creations, a race of genetically-altered and radiation-resistant creatures, for her own schemes. A newly-repaired Scorpio returns in the nick of time but it still ends messily.

Episode 6: Headhunter (First Broadcast 2/11/81)

Written by Roger Parkes; Director: Mary Ridge.

The crew of the Scorpio rescue scientist Muller, a protege of Orac-inventor Ensor specialising in robotics. Unfortunately, what they have actually rescued is his android creation, who has borrowed the scientist's head for a cunning disguise and is now seeking to unite with an unwilling Orac. After much chaos, confusion and Terminator-on-a-budget-style antics, Avon and company finally manage to deal with their unwelcome visitor. A moralistic Orac rounds the story off nicely with a biting remark directed at Avon.

Episode 7: Assassin (First Broadcast 9/11/81)

Written by Rod Beacham; Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot.

The crew of the Scorpio discover that Servalan has arranged for Cancer, an assassin, to pay them a visit. They decide to bump off the assassin before they themselves meet untimely ends, a plan which initially leads to Avon being sold to Servalan as a slave(!). There is a tense showdown aboard the assassin's black ship; Cancer has set a trap and as usual, all is not what it seems. Especially when nobody actually knows what Cancer looks like. I haven't mentioned Doctor Who for a while, so I thought I'd add that Richard Hurndall, who plays the elderly Nebrox in this episode, took the role of the first Doctor in place of the late William Hartnell in The Five Doctors.

Episode 8: Games (First Broadcast 16/11/81)

Written by Bill Lyons; Director: Vivienne Cozens.

Avon and comrades are lured into a deal with scientist Belkov, who has embezzled a large quantity of valuable Feldon crystals from a Federation mining facility. Aided by his omnipotent gaming computer Gambit (no relation, I think, to the Freedom City gaming computer in season two episode 'Gambit'), Belkov plans to double-cross both Servalan and the crew of the Scorpio in an attempt to escape with the loot. The climax gets rather silly as the crew take on the games-oriented security system in Belkov's orbital base, while Belkov himself loses a battle with a black hole.

Episode 9: Sand (First Broadcast 23/11/81)

Written by Tanith Lee; Director: Vivienne Cozens.

Scheming villain Servalan/Sleer travels to an unwelcomely planet, home to an unknown yet potentially useful substance and an investigation team who died in mysterious circumstances. Avon and the crew learn of Servalan's trip and decide to investigate for themselves. This is an atmospheric episode which includes some interesting ideas in a classic science-fiction sense (as you would expect from writer Tanith Lee), an emotional back-story for Servalan and some rather intimate scenes between her and Tarrant. And you thought it was Avon she had the hots for...

Episode 10: Gold (First Broadcast 30/11/81)

Written by Colin Davis; Director: Brian Lighthill.

Avon and his fellow revolutionaries take a leaf out of Vila's book and decide to do an honest day's thieving. A shipment of atomically-converted gold is being transported on the passenger ship Space Princess and for a price, scheming Captain Keiller (Roy Kinnear) is only too happy to help the crew of the Scorpio steal it. Of course, it is all a devious plan cooked up by Servalan, who actually manages to outwit Avon for once. Admittedly, petty theft was never his style.

Episode 11: Orbit (First Broadcast 7/12/81)

Written by Robert Holmes; Director: Brian Lighthill.

Eccentric scientist Egrorian offers Avon and his rebels his latest invention, the Tachyon Funnel, a weapon powerful enough to destroy any target from any distance. The price is Orac, which Egrorian wants to help him in his research. However, Servalan is hiding behind the scenes planning a double-cross that will give her both the Tachyon Funnel and Orac. Coincidentally, Avon was planning something very similar and nearly gets away with it. Unfortunately, Egrorian had sabotaged the shuttle taking Avon and Vila back to Scorpio and there are some very tense moments when Vila learns just how dispensable he is.

Episode 12: Warlord (First Broadcast 14/12/81)

Written by Simon Masters; Director: Viktors Ritelis.

Avon tries to form an alliance between the leaders of warring star systems in order to produce an antidote to the Federation's pacification drug. Tarrant falls for punk goddess Zeeona, daughter of warlord Zukan. Unfortunately, Zukan has sold out to Servalan and has arranged a little sabotage. Scorpio is sent on a wild-goose chase with Avon and Soolin aboard, while the rest of the gang find Xenon base exploding around them. A deadly virus adds to the fun in what is a pretty good episode.

Episode 13: Blake (First Broadcast 21/12/81)

Written by Chris Boucher; Director: Mary Ridge.

With the crew and Scorpio homeless, Avon decides it's time to find a proper figurehead for their rebellion and reveals Orac has traced the man himself, Roj Blake, to the planet Gauda Prime (he must have forgotten about Blake's clone from the episode 'Weapon'). Unfortunately, Scorpio runs foul of the blockade around Gauda Prime and crash lands on the surface. Avon and crew eventually find Blake, who has turned to bounty hunting as a way of recruiting rebels to his cause. However, Tarrant misinterprets Blake's scheme and believes he has sold out to the Federation, which in turn confuses Avon into thinking the same. The finale is soul destroying; a despairing Avon kills Blake, then Federation guards turn up to finish off the crew, one by one (though the way Vila fell suggests he was only pretending to have been hit). Avon was still standing by the time the final credits rolled but you knew, deep in your heart, that was it. The good guys lost. The end.

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Author's Note: This guide was written and compiled using material found on the World-Wide Web to help fill in the black holes of my mind. Admittedly, over the years I have watched the VHS editions many, many times...


All content (c) Steph Bennion, WyrdStar and Danse Macabre 2007-2017.

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