Blakewatch week 19 - Trial

There are 52 episodes of Blake’s 7 and 52 weeks in the year.....

This week: Season Two Episode 6- Trial
(1979) Writer: Chris Boucher / Director: Derek Martinus
Blake takes a hiatus on a seemingly uninhabited planet as he considers the implications of the attack on Control while Travis is on trial accused of war crimes.

In penning `Trial`, Chris Boucher is trying to draw some parallels between Blake and Travis’s respective situations even though there really aren’t any. I suppose you could say they are both on trial except that in Blake’s case it is through his own guilt. Why else would these seemingly unconnected events be brought together in the same episode? The answer only comes at the end when Boucher does manage to link them in a manner so bold yet unlikely that you can only applaud.

"There's a kickin' club in town if you fancy it, Blakey?" "Bog off shorty"
If Blake was really feeling vulnerable and contrite then surely the Liberator is large enough for him to go and have a few days solitary confinement in some hitherto unexplored room. Does he really need to employ considerable subterfuge to beam down to somewhere that has nobody at all living on it? Also, does he really imagine he’ll get much peace on a planet that does not appear to sustain life? As it turns out he doesn’t get any peace; instead he has to put up with a life sized parrot called Zil who jumps about zanily as if performing at an under 5s show. It emerges that the planet is actually an entity itself and that if he doesn’t keep moving, Blake will be swallowed up. In this instance you have some sympathy with the planet.

The whole thing is so awkwardly written and Claire Lewis looks so utterly silly in her lizard bird costume that all you can do is admire the heat haze effect they’ve put over the picture. The excursion goes round in circles before Blake is rescued and he apparently deduces from his sojourn that the thing to do right now is attack the Federation. That wasn’t what Zil said at all was it? Clearly their encounter has made Blake more unhinged then ever!

Meanwhile what should be the juicier plot is not faring much better. Travis is on trial for ordering the slaughter of thousands; an order he was in all probability given by Servalan. She has set the trial up so Travis is out of the way and can’t blag about what went wrong last week. Only thing is he knows she knows. And it seems half the people at the trial know –or do they? It’s no wonder Travis is a bit crazy.

TV court room drama can either be tense and thrilling or dull and long winded- this one certainly lives up to the episode’s name being full of people thinking they are clever. It is such a trial that frankly you wish someone would come along and try and blow them all up. Then someone does. The Liberator attacks the space station where the trial is taking place allowing Travis to escape because presumably all those highly trained guards are less able to balance when the place is hit than a man with only one eye.

"Three seater vehicles are not allowed in here"
The best bits come early as the crew debate what Blake is up to and Avon gets to insult Vila to his face without the latter realising. There is also a well written character in defence counsel Thalia. The episode opens with a promising scene in which two guards chat about the trial; for a moment it seems as if we might see the whole thing from their point of view but it’s not to be. Guest roles for the always enjoyable John Savident and Peter Miles amount to little more than cameos and the entire thing ends with a bizarre scenario where Travis kidnaps Servalan and the entire trial personnel are killed by their own security system. Justice is nowhere to be seen and logic is entirely absent.

If Blake had got Orac to do a full scan of the planet to check there was no life, wouldn’t the latter have detected that the planet was a life form?

If Servalan really wanted to get rid of Travis, couldn’t she just have sent him on some risky mission and had him executed?

Two of the guest actors would go on to become quite well known in later years- Kevin Lloyd (Trooper Par) was Tosh Lines from The Bill while John Savident (Samor) was Coronation Street regular Fred Elliott.


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