29/09/2012

Blakewatch: Week 39 Terminal

Season Three Episode 13- Terminal
(1980) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Mary Ridge
Avon takes the Liberator on a private mission refusing to tell the others either its purpose or destination. Their journey causes a potentially catastrophic effect on the Liberator and brings them to the supposedly long destroyed man made planet Terminal.
Originally supposed to be the last ever episode `Terminal` is packed with incident (perhaps a little too much) and reaches a suitable ending that could easily have left viewers speculating indefinitely. As it happened there was another season after all but it still works as a `how will they get out of that one` cliffhanger. Terry Nation’s ideasometer is working overtime to introduce us to a strange space phenomena, a man made planet and, almost casually, the future of man’s evolution.

On Terminal the only programme they could watch was `Friends`

With Avon even more obstreperous than normal, the tone is set from the start. This season has seen the crew gel far better on the whole than before and this pays dividends now with the other’s bemused reactions to Avon’s errant behaviour. There are some strong scenes between them notably the moment when Avon pulls a gun on Tarrant to force him to back down. Director Mary Ridge excels in these early sections conveying the rising tension. Avon’s single minded mission allows Paul Darrow to dominate the first half and leads the ship into a potentially fatal situation.
Terry Nation has been criticised over the years- and even during this Blakewatch series- for formulaic plotting but he does have a good line in introducing random developments. Having the Liberator sabotaged by something almost by accident is a far more effective device than losing it in a big space battle. The corrosive effects of the contagion are however less successfully shown. Initially the exterior shots work well but once it gets inside the results are mixed. There is a line someone says about how it is eating through all materials and the next minute Vila wipes some away with a cloth revealing it’s had no effect on the surface whatsoever! Even more amusingly nobody seems to notice an increasing number of giant moulds hanging off the walls. Despite this there is something quite poignant about the demise of the series’ principal set. When Zen refers to itself in the first person and apologises, leading Vila to observe “He’s dying” it is as if a character is passing away.

The crew realised there was something wrong with the waste disposal unit

Terminal itself is as remote and uncomfortable as you’d expect and in this environment even the ape creatures that attack Tarrant and Dayna work. Nation seems to be hinting at a far more ambitious idea behind the planet when Servalan declares that the creatures are not primitive re-creations but the ultimate evolution- “what man will become”. There is a tinge of sadness, fear even, on her face when she reveals this fact and you imagine there are issues that might have been worth exploring in a wider 2 part story.
That the whole thing turns out to be Servalan’s plot to snare the Liberator is not surprising though her entrance is left till late but what is unexpected is the appearance of Gareth Thomas. We’ve reached a stage where we’d stopped thinking about Blake so it is the right moment to bring him back albeit in what amounts to a cameo. After all that has happened, it is a little unusual for Avon to be so trusting of mysterious messages and the idea that Blake has found something amazing perhaps showing that Avon is more loyal than we’d imagine. The brief scene between the two of them carries a lot of weight despite the circumstances and Darrow’s underplaying is a pleasant change of pace.
The ending sees Servalan’s infamous “maximum power” command and as the ship starts to break up, her even funnier escape shoving a guard out of the way! The scene of the Liberator exploding is slightly poor in visualisation- it looks like a cake combusting- but a significant moment. Of all the aspects of the series the most striking has been the design of the ship whether it’s unique outward appearance or the multi level bridge set. It is difficult to imagine anything matching it.  Despite a few ragged edges, `Terminal` is a strong conclusion to a good season.



 

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