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

Season Four Episode 13- Blake
(1981) Writer: Chris Boucher / Director: Mary Ridge 
Avon has finally tracked down Blake who is hiding out on the lawless planet of Gauda Prime. Forced to abandon the Scorpio after a crash landing, the crew struggle to survive as theirs and Blake’s paths lead to an inevitable and dramatic confrontation.
The very last episode of Blake`s 7 is shrouded in portent, whether it is the fact that we open with the Xenon base exploding or the subsequent crash landing of the Scorpio or the re-appearance of Blake himself.  The pine forests of Gauda Prime are an atmospheric place to finish in and there is a sense of imminent danger wherever we are. Long hailed as a classic in telefantasy history, `Blake` works even better if you’ve been following the series from the beginning.

"Look what two seasons of Blake's 7 did to me"

Blake is a different character now and it suits Gareth Thomas who often seemed an unlikely leader of the group. Here, with assorted scars and a gruff countenance the actor seems at home. A 2 part story would have given more time for us to learn Blake’s true intent but Thomas works so well with what he’s given that it remains a fascinating re-appearance. Few returning characters in shows have been so successfully developed. The best thing about it is we don’t know really know what he’s up to till it’s too late and again a 2 parter would have given more time for things to percolate.

Meanwhile matters on the Scorpio take a turn for the worse when its attacked and badly damaged necessitating a crash landing that Tarrant does while the others beam down. This sequence is particularly well achieved, one of the few the series has had where things really look dangerous as opposed to someone wobbling a camera and letting of a few flash pots. Here, even the floor splits in two and starts to rise. The subsequent scene where Blake finds the wounded Tarrant is Boucher’s writing at its best as the two avoid each other’s questions amidst a visually impressive wrecked control deck.

On the planet surface Soolin, Dayna and Vila end up being rescued from bounty hunters by Avon whose continued resilient self assurance even in such circumstances remains impressive. There is some good banter between the characters who often seem to work better away from the main set be it the Liberator or Scorpio. It is a shame that matters are rounded up swiftly and before you know it, we are headed for the famous final scene.

That the climax hinges on a misunderstanding between Blake and Avon is an ironic demise for two characters whose journey has been defined by the information they receive. If only Avon had listened- or more pertinently if only Boucher had supplied the words for Blake to tell him- but it does represent Avon’s recklessness which has been on display all season. The scene hits all the right dramatic notes but in reaching it Blake’s deception is too casually unveiled, there is not enough time for the ramifications to be played out and a squad of Federation guards seem to appear from nowhere. How come they’ve not been patrolling before now? Also perhaps through lack of studio time Paul Darrow does not pitch Avon’s incredulity quite right while Boucher does not give Blake enough to say at this moment. Nonetheless it is an iconic scene and still possessed of a powerful punch even if you know the result and especially for those of us who have been watching the characters all year.

It does seem implicit that they all die here though you can see ways in which, had the option for another season been taken up, they could have got round it. In fact Chris Boucher did subsequently say as much. For example do the guns we hear firing after the picture cuts belong to the guards surrounding Avon or has someone else turned up to save him? After all, the place is theoretically crawling with rebels. Not all of the slow motion hits to the regulars seem as if they have to be fatal, though in all likelihood Tarrant and Dayna would not survive. The staging is perfect though and the alarm going in the background only adds to what we see unfolding. Bold to the end, any show that ends by seemingly massacring its main cast has to be commended. So many shows would cop out but `Blake` leaves just a little ambiguity amidst the bloodbath.

From the start the series never really does what it set out to achieve in trying to draw distinctions between terrorists and freedom fighters. The Federation is always presented as being so monolithically powerful and completely corrupt that you never get their point of view. Taking up arms against such a body is easy to comprehend. Yet the series ends up becoming something arguably better; a study of desperate people in desperate situations.

Despite the issues that budgets and production values sometimes brought to bear, the series is less bound to the time in which it was made than you might think. Whether they were always entirely successful, most of the plots were more daring than tv sci-fi is usually prepared to be. Some of the ideas and storylines would probably not be allowed on the BBC these days while the casting reflected ability rather than who might look good on the promo posters. The main characters are mostly full blooded ones too, flawed individuals with their grudges, neuroses and obsessions; in short people we could identify with and a long way from the plastic people that often populate telefantasy.. A picture of a future world is successfully conveyed and whether by way of inventive episode openings or unusual premises, there is rarely a dull episode to be seen. We’ve laughed at some dodgy effects, ill advised costumes and so forth but Blake’s 7 is usually intelligent, always fun and frequently exciting. Now what about that season 5…..


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