52 Weeks in a Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7
Episode 6- Seek – Locate - Destroy
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Vere Lorrimer
A mission to steal vital equipment that will allow Blake to de-code Federation messages goes wrong leading to Cally’s capture and an encounter with notorious Space Commander Travis who is brought in by Supreme Commander Servalan to ensnare our heroes.
Every good hero needs a decent nemesis but in this case is it Servalan or Travis? Despite a melodramatic effort to introduce the latter as the key antagonist – he even gets a big “I’ll get you Blake, grrh” bit at the end- by simply listening to her minions and looking ice cool in an all white outfit more suited to the Federation Ball than a day at the office, Servalan steals all the thunder in this episode.
|The 1978 series of `Strictly Come Dancing` begins|
Her demeanour- and the way her flirty behaviour with assistant Ray turns off when he challenges her judgement- hints at the way she made it this far. Whereas Blake and Travis’ mutual hatred results in displays of macho posturing, she is a character that you can tell has far more potential. From her first scene in which she says nothing for quite a while, this is obviously a role Jacqueline Pearce is ideal for.
That’s not to demean Travis too much; the eye patch thingy looks silly but impressively Stephen Greif manages to still seem menacing and far more dangerous than any Federation officer thus far seen. His deductions at the bombsite are a strong contrast to the methods he is reputed to employ and there is no doubt he has a presence. By revealing a personal feud between Blake and Travis, Terry Nation ups the stakes to good effect.
Other impressive elements of the episode include a running start with Blake arriving for the mission and the plot being revealed as we go along, so much better than the static `this is the plan` scenes we’ve had previously. The narrative is pacier than the last couple of episodes but the contrast between the running about in the base and the more stately tone in Servalan’s office is well judged. This seems the most complete, balanced episode so far culminating in a brief but well played confrontation between Blake and Travis that includes a genuinely surprising twist that shows the sometimes plodding Nation can be more imaginative with structure. If you’ve forgotten how this scene kicks off, you’ll like it even more.
There are lingering issues with the choreography of the action, sometimes it looks fine, other times laboured but this is probably as much to do with time constraints during filming than anything. A few bits and pieces can never disguise the gas works location which does not really resemble a communications complex of any sort. Omitting the clumsy robot would probably help as it is clearly designed only to allow for the plot to get Blake and Vila inside.
|"Er, have I brought too many sandwiches?"|
Some very strong performances from the crew this time round, in particular from Gareth Thomas whose reaction to Travis’ involvement is never less than totally convincing. Michael Keating seems to have settled into his role quite well and proves an asset to proceedings because Vila is liable to make mistakes. `Seek-Locate-Destroy` is the best episode to date with a sense that the key elements of the space saga are now clicking into place promisingly.
The Federation does not really seem to do security very well. They guard their key communications centre with robots from whom you can apparently hide by lying on the ground. The main security gate- on which the sign reads `Top Security` (is this a subsidiary of Top Shop?) has to be opened by a complex scanning system yet is low and flimsy enough to be vaulted over or cut through. And a key piece of equipment, with which Blake and co can tap into all messages, is not even remembered by anyone until they search through wreckage and study plans. Finally, all the rooms in this important location have ordinary doors without any kind of security lock.
Blake and co have obviously been to Millets since last episode as they all now have matching tunics for missions. Plus Vila has purchased a sandwich box for his tools.
Travis’ eye thing resembles a piece of tarmac stuck to his face, its effect further undermined by the fact you can see his eye looking through a small hole. So was his eye replaced and he chose to leave what are presumably meant to be burns? Or are we not supposed to see the actor’s real eye?
When they rig up the stolen machine so they can listen in to Federation messages, it is agreed the crew will take turns on the headphones. Yet it is also mentioned that all the messages are being recorded so why don’t they just ask Zen to let them know if anything significant turns up?
Peter Craze who plays Servalan’s assistant is the brother of Doctor Who companion Michael Craze and has also appeared in DW himself amongst a range of credits taking in many key TV series of the 1960s and 70s.
The Centero communications base was actually Fulham Gasworks which was also visited by The Sweeney. (the TV series not the police)