Blakewatch - Week 13 Orac

52 Weeks in The Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7.

This week: Season One Episode 13- Orac
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Vere Lorrimer
With most of the crew suffering from radiation sickness the Liberator races to Aristo in the hope Ensor can help but Servalan and Travis are already there seeking Orac.

After a run of strong stories, this last season one episode is rather disappointing by comparison as if both budget and inspiration are in short supply.  While the former is perhaps understandable, the latter is less so but director Vere Lorrimer seem unable to marshal anything approaching a flourish until the last section.

The crew were disappointed the box contained a super computer rather than sanwiches
Elements such as the recap of last week’s episode, sequences of the crew feeling unwell while Servalan and Travis wander around the caves plus the drawn out scenes of Blake and Cally’s sojourn on Artisto’s surface do not really fizz the way an end of season episode should. There’s nothing actually wrong with them, just a lack of excitement as if the crew’s lethargy is symbolic of a production malaise.

Thank goodness then for Derek Farr who adds character to the otherwise featureless proceedings. His fussy, bad tempered Ensor is more interesting watering his plants than anything else going on. Elsewhere, even the usually feisty interaction between Servalan and Travis is toned down; the Servalan of previous episodes would have been carrying a weapon or even kicked the Phibian where it hurts instead of weakly shouting for Travis.

Visually the story suffers from obvious financial restraints, especially in Ensor’s living quarters which he is supposed to have inhabited for forty years but look literally as if it was put together a week ago though the electronic bird is a nice touch. The caves do add some atmosphere and here Lorrimer does score by shooting the Phibians so we never really see the full costume which makes them more effective.

After barely flickering for half an hour, the final fifteen minutes or so see matters finally spark into life with the parties meeting up and a brief but well written confrontation on the planet surface. Then, just to make sure we tune in for season two there is a shock cliff hanger that makes you wish the whole episode had been able to make such a dramatic impact.

"That's the last time I go on holiday with you, Travis"

At the start we watch a recap of last week’s episode which Blake appears to have compiled complete with clips – has he done this with every episode? You can imagine them getting the popcorn in and watching their adventures on quiet nights.

The Liberator’s systems are taken over by Orac and Blake and Cally’s arrival on Aristo managed by the super computer. Yet somehow Servalan and Travis have been able to do as they please arriving undetected on the planet and not being noticed till they enter the tunnels.

While Servalan and Travis understandably want to bag the credit for finding Orac, you’d think they would take at least a couple of Mutoids with them. It seems odd that such a senior figure as Servalan would even be able to undertake such a covert mission unless she told the Federation she was going on holiday!

If Ensor has been living on Aristo for forty years, how does he get his power, or indeed the equipment required to build Orac? And did he build the bunker or hire Bunkers R Us? Also, his plants look suspiciously new.

If Ensor’s fate is in the balance why does Orac leave Blake and Cally on the beach for two hours before turning up to meet them?

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