21/10/2012

Blakewatch: 52 Weeks of Blake's 7. Week 42: Traitor

Season Four Episode 3- Traitor
(1981) Writer: Robert Holmes / Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot
Trying to discover why so many colonies are suddenly falling under Federation control, the Scorpio crew investigate Helotrix where they find a new mind altering drug is causing mass compliance and they also encounter an old enemy.
The old enemy is Servalan by the way but that probably wasn’t a surprise even in 1981 and she turns up sporting a disco outfit which threatens to engulf her. This may be because with Servalan presumed dead she is masquerading as Commander Sleer though you’d have thought that with the high recognition factor and outrageous dress sense she would be instantly recognisable to everyone. As it is she has to kill anyone who does spot her true identity and disguise her voice so it sounds like Servalan with a sore throat. We learn she has despatched 26 people who have so far recognised her; the mystery is why it is not more. You can imagine the chaos if she were to enter Waitrose!
The General was unimpressed by the latest iPhone
Robert Holmes is at the helm for an episode that features his trademark nuances that manage to give some colour to what might otherwise be faceless characters.  There is a casual menace during scenes where Federation officers are seen playing chess while firing missiles or enjoying a dinner while discussing strategy. The subtle distinctions between several officers we meet are well defined both in Holmes’ script and the quality of actors cast.  
Malcolm Stoddard is the Traitor of the title, a double- double agent supposedly working for the Federation but pretending to help the rebels while also working to Servalan’s own agenda. It’s a shame he cops it at the end- though at Servalan’s hand which seems appropriate – as he instantly seems an interesting prospect as a returning character. Elsewhere we are treated to Christopher Neame as the confident but lax Quute and  Nick Brimble as his boss who you sense is well aware of his subordinate’s pretensions.  The rebel side are less well defined, perhaps because they speak with the show’s oft seem revolutionary fervour. Hunda, their leader is a straight down the line freedom fighter type but his mission blends well into Tarrant and Dayna’s arrival.
The pace is fast moving in a way that sometimes provides issues for the designers and probably the budget too. There are some great locations that manage to look quite alien but elsewhere less convincing sets are used. The episode does gives some indication of what is going on elsewhere in the Federation acting as a useful catch up for developments. While not one of Robert Holmes’ strongest scripts, `Traitor` is far better than the muddled opening two episodes and it feels like the season has properly started. Now if they could only find something for Soolin to do…

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