Monday 30 March 2020

Blake's 7 - Dawn of the Gods

Dawn of the Gods

It's so fantastic to watch Blake's 7 with no preconceptions about fan consensus on episodes. Dawn of the Gods seems like a potentially divisive one because it is vastly different from the usual action adventures. While there is plenty early on, it's much slower and stranger once they enter the other universe.

In some ways, Dawn of the Gods is the most science-fiction-y episode I've experienced so far. Everything was fairly normal, even if I was noticing the scientific space babble more than usual, with some fictional, some not: having Orac explain how black holes work, only for Avon to respond, "Yes, we know all that," was some blatant swiftly-explained physics. Then they travelled through the black hole, I didn't have a clue what was going on anymore, and it went utterly bizarre.

I found Series B exciting, especially early on, because having different writers produced such a variety of story types. I wasn't expecting much variation again for Series C, thinking the production might just go with what worked well previously, but I am pleased with this result from James Follett. It feels some considerable time since Blake's 7 has had a story that doesn't impact on the series arc; the second half of Series B was almost completely geared towards the search for Star One. Opening up the idea of accessible alternate universes provides a wealth of options for Blake's 7, including more plots that don't need to relate to Servalan or the Federation.

The episode started to seem like it might be entirely set on the Liberator - and I get excited during those episodes because I enjoyed Breakdown in Series A so much. Yet every time it's looked like happening again the crew do eventually leave and I am a tad disappointed. Admittedly, there must be a limited number of plots that could be thrilling and/or interesting, but I am curious to see them try again.

One small aspect worthy of praise in the earlier part of the episode is the moment when Vila begins protesting that he is absolutely not going to don a spacesuit and explore outside the ship. For regular viewers it's a predictable response, as is the result, so I liked the fade - of both sound and image - to Vila's preparations in the decompression chamber, narrated by his resigned monotone, with us having skipped the insistent/persuasive discussions in between.

Just a machine
Orac stunned me by intentionally dragging the crew into such danger and some choice words were spluttered. Orac may be the only computer to ever give you cheek back yet this has been amusing and never really to the crew's detriment.

He's like a petulant child at the start of the episode while they are playing a board game and in retrospect, it is apparent that he hoped to keep the crew distracted from his influence on the navigation. It's a good contrast now to have Zen loyal to the crew, while Orac is entirely indifferent with no programming to prevent him harming them and both characteristics make perfect sense; Zen is part of the ship so keeping the Liberator and its occupants in one piece is essential, yet Orac was designed to be autonomous.

Orac's actions are understandable but it remains hard not to anthropomorphise him (always a 'him' not an 'it') when he's been given an increasing amount of personality. I was bloody annoyed with him, and yet he's too useful and too valuable to ever get rid of.

Tarrant - not a new Avon
I finally felt like I got to know Tarrant a tad more too and concluded that he's a bit of a dick. Although I've seen Tarrant as a replacement for Avon's old role, it's becoming clear that they are markedly different.

One difference is that Tarrant is more aggressive. We saw it during his 'negotiations' with the Obsidians in Volcano, with Dayna having to remind him, "These people are our friends." In Dawn of the Gods, Tarrant's attitude has unfortunate consequences when it earns him an experience of the neuronic-whip. In contrast, Avon silently listens and observes, with a desire to hold all the information before making a decision. He has a patience that Tarrant lacks.

As the ship looks set to be ripped apart going through the black hole, Avon dives for a conveniently-close spacesuit. Tarrant then tries to stop him, insisting that if they're going to die, they can all go together. It was this that helped me decide that Tarrant is a bit of a dick. Just... why? This may be a team that looks after one another but self-sacrifice has never been on the agenda - well, unless Blake was forcing a reluctant effort. If Tarrant had had the chance to get to that suit first, I'm sure he would have.

I'm still baffled why Tarrant sought out the Liberator. If he wanted to join up with a resistance movement, he was going to have to work with other people. He clearly isn't comfortable with Avon in charge, so how would it have been different with Blake?

I originally thought Avon was a sod, but even at their antagonistic heights, I don't think he ever told Blake to his face that he might kill him. I enjoyed Avon's swift brush off, "It has been tried," and the accompanying grin shows that his and Tarrant's clashes are not so large as that early chasm between him and Blake. Avon seemed to look for any opportunity to argue with Blake and always planned to get rid of him. With Tarrant, Avon is the experienced man being challenged by the new one and feels no immediate need to rise to it because he's confident in his own abilities.

The one and only Avon
I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing to have people around to question Avon because he has been shown to be over-arrogant before. As Tarrant asks Zen to scan for traction beams, Avon states, "There is no known power in the universe that can operate a traction beam over that distance," to which Tarrant replies, "Just because you don't know how to build a high energy traction beam doesn't mean no one else knows how to build one." I like these occasional reminders that even Avon's logic can be fallible because sometimes he is like a computer - all the information we have says it cannot be possible, therefore it cannot be possible. While in this instance the change of course is down to Orac, Avon's wording actually misses out the one thing he could have been thinking about: what if the power came from another universe? From now on, he should certainly be considering it.

Cally and the Thaarn
Both Tarrant and Dayna round on Cally when they believe Auron's people may be causing the issues with the Liberator. While I instantly felt defensive for Cally, it's a reminder that the two new crew members don't know the others so well yet and mistrust can go both ways.

I was intrigued by the idea that Auron's fairy tale of its people's beginnings had its place in facts that had been passed down and muddled over the centuries. It was nice to learn more about the Aurons, who have been defined only by their telepathic powers up until now. I was also pleased that there has clearly been a concerted effort to develop Cally's character this series and she has plenty to do in this episode, including holding scenes alone when she is speaking to the Thaarn.

My main gripe is that I don't think we should have seen the Thaarn. When Cally is lying down, with music and lights twinkling, I was reminded of hypnosis scenes in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Like Blofeld, the Thaarn is a disembodied voice speaking to the young woman, but while Telly Savalas delivers some menace once we pass the mystique, the Thaarn is distinctly underwhelming. He's a small fellow with a big brain - so what? Is the sight of him supposed to be horrifying, disgusting? I felt neither and was unsure why Cally later lied about seeing him.

Delightful and dreadful design
It's been a while since I've commented on the costumes in Blake's 7. I am disappointed that Avon still has his red lobster outfit as I've always thought it looks dreadful. Vila and Tarrant are wearing fairly similar shirt styles but Tarrant's has been combined with green velvet trousers and a belt with a large buckle, something so absurdly bold and vaguely period that it reminded me of a pantomime. This old-fashioned style continued with the Caliph in his top hat and breeches. Cally and Dayna are both in dresses, an immediate signal that they shouldn't be doing much running around or fighting because my first thought is: that's not very practical.

The sets were fairly simple, with little time to admire them. My favourite was the simplest of all: the huge empty space where the Liberator lands. This great expanse of darkness was wonderful for conveying the complete unknown and placing Vila in it first helped instil some fear.

I enjoyed Dawn of the Gods for providing something unlike any episode before. We had action, intrigue, then - what?! James Follett seems an interesting writer for the series and I liked numerous small elements, like the way the crew used the anthropomorphising of Orac to hide him from the Caliph, and "only the technology of the Lord Thaarn prevails on Krandor" was an original way of losing the advantages of the teleport bracelets. I'll be curious to see if other universes are ever explored again and what other types of stories Series C will offer next.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Blake's 7 - Volcano


We return to a regular type of Blake’s 7 adventure with a planet of the week that even Cally gets to visit now.

The opening act of Volcano had me solely by the intrigue of having no idea what was going on plot-wise, which I thought was better than the crew finding a planet and Blake telling us that he’s had a plan for three days but he’s only revealing it now. Once the Liberator came under attack, I was hooked for the rest of the episode. The combination of the interesting location filming and the exciting events on the ship worked perfectly for me. I remained gripped as I was seriously worried that the episode would end without Cally or Orac returning to the Liberator.

What the plot
I did feel like we had skipped an episode. Where did they hear the crew hear the rumour of Blake being on the planet? It appears that Servalan purposefully spread a false rumour, but it does feel like we've missed an adventure with them finding out this information.

I am also lacking an explanation for why they are going after Blake. What is the plan? Find Blake and hope he has a plan? Blake is a prick. He does not have enough redeeming features to overcome the rest: he kept important information from the crew; he placed them in unnecessary danger; he had an absurd number of chances to kill Travis and it wasn't until he was almost literally dying on his arse that he tried it; worst of all, he was obsessed and selfish, with his desperation to find Star One partly still coming down to having to know if he was right. Letting Travis live was perhaps Blake's way of proving to himself that he was a good person, but his all-consuming drive seemed to overcome his other decisions. Blake was not a good leader on the Liberator, yet he may still make a decent resistance leader, so I'm not entirely against finding him - just so long as it's clear that this is Avon's ship now.

Despite Tarrant and Dayna being the newbies on board, it's these two who head off alone to the planet. The others have known Tarrant five minutes, so this is irresponsible as far as I'm concerned - what's happened that Avon suddenly trusts him enough? A separate issue, and a minor plot hole, is that Avon has sent two people to find Blake who have never met him before: if I was one of the most wanted people in the galaxy, I wouldn't trust two strangers, even if they did have Liberator teleport bracelets.


While I continue to find any invasion of the Liberator shocking, it has happened several times now: Bounty’s bounty hunters, Zen’s creators, Travis, last episode’s Federation Death Squad, and now more Federation troops. Though it's come close, no one has ever been seriously hurt in any of the previous encounters, with the crew’s knowledge of the Liberator’s design and features often being used to their advantage. The Liberator's familiarity has ensured it remained safe in a way, compared to a neutral ground, so shooting Avon stripped that away. It seemed highly unlikely that even Blake’s 7 would kill off its new lead three episodes into the series, but nonetheless, seeing Avon drop down unconscious, looking in such pain, instead of just clutching his arm and carrying on fighting back was concerning.

Avon does a cracking job alone on the flight deck, leading the battle, but he still needed back up. I was tearing my hair out, desperate for Cally or Vila to contact him, or for Avon to stop, turn around and realise something was wrong. I did like his little trick with Zen that gave him the chance to grab his gun. Avon now seems to have been hurt more than Blake. We may know he was far from perfect, but still, Blake’s almost mythical status is a contrast to Avon, who is starting to be presented as much more ordinary.

I’m finding this slight change in Avon’s character interesting. It feels significant because, when the circumstances have been right, Avon has thrown himself into a fight. Yet the series appears to be trying to show that Avon definitely isn’t a superman: he’s penetrable and vulnerable just like everyone else. He’s been exceptionally guarded both emotionally and physically up until recently but it’s falling away, crumbling a little. It's such a strong aspect of his identity that I am increasingly curious where the character will go this series.

Location, location, location
I'd whoop with joy if Blake's 7 suddenly got to film abroad and we had far more extreme ranges for locations, but my expectations are only slightly above rock bottom. I'll take it all back if they show up in the Grand Canyon next week. While it's nice to be wowed, I take enormous joy in the creativity of ambitious productions on more limited budgets.

Volcano has another great location that’s used effectively, and with the combination of wind, smoke and coloured lights the live effects are grand. I KNOW it's all being mashed in with stock footage, but it works as well as it can - bonus points for using the same eruption footage as seen in 007's You Only Live Twice (1967) and Doctor Who's Inferno (1970), as this clearly hasn't been bettered in at least 13 years. Minor points deducted for the unrealistic shot of the bloke falling into the volcano.

Like Vila's forest clearing, we are again getting scale to these location scenes. There is no attempt to stick to closer shots and avoid showing this vast, empty expanse - Volcano embraces it, with a distant shot of two native men approaching Servalan in a time-lapse. The population living below ground is a justifiable way of explaining why we see so few of them on the surface (The Keeper did this too on Goth, so I certainly won't be accepting it every time, Mr Prior). This surface seems huge and I liked its variety, with Servalan coming down on a flat plain but Dayna, Tarrant and Avon all teleporting near rocks on a hill, while we also see Cally in a small cave.

Missing pieces – Dayna and Tarrant

I want to see more of Dayna and, even more so, Tarrant. After Powerplay I was distrustful of him and there wasn’t enough in Volcano that made me feel like I knew him much better. His negotiating skills need some work as he came across a bit forceful and I was interested that Vila has already voiced his uncertainty about Tarrant. It was a wonderful three-hander moment when Vila told Cally that he "hadn’t really noticed" whether Dayna was pretty and Avon replied, “We’ve seen you not really noticing – frequently.” Despite what I’ve previously said about Dayna and Avon, Blake’s 7 has rarely so directly acknowledged such feelings – either lustful or romantic.

Not all Federation officers
There are at least a couple of things to note about Tarrant. His movement into Avon’s old position is cemented further as he tells Dayna, “I don’t trust anyone except myself. That’s why I’m still alive.” It’s also mentioned that he was previously a Federation Captain, which I must have missed or forgotten from the last episode.

It has been easy to see the Federation’s forces as one enormous entity as Travis is the only individual depicted more closely. I would expect a screening process to rule out anyone with even a glimmer of potential to let them down. The fact that Tarrant made it through in the first place makes me trust him even less, but it’s interesting to see someone like that who has successfully turned against the Federation.

Servalan’s underling in Volcano is Commander Mori, another officer who does not perfectly fit the Federation model. He seems so suited initially, but when Servalan orders him to kill the two Obsidians, Mori hesitates. He’s deeply uncomfortable with murdering the men in cold blood and though he does carry it out, his face turns grim as he stares at the bodies. Servalan’s expression also switches – to one of disgust. She needs loyal, unquestioning people with her and unfortunately for her, I don’t think she’s likely to find any who take the same sort of sadistic pleasure with as little disregard for life as Travis did.

I’m concerned that we might not see Travis again. It’s occurred to me now that I was certain we would but I’m no longer sure. I’ve enjoyed having both him and Servalan as villains because they each offered something different. I like having Servalan to smile as she hurts you, for delicious moments like the conclusion of Voice from the Past. But her threat only works from afar. If our heroes turn a corner and see Servalan, I gasp. If they suddenly spot Travis, I swear and imagine them reaching for a gun. For the series to work as well with just Servalan, I would like to see more of a physical threat from her. Her quite nasty murder of Mellanby was an excellent start, so I suppose what I really want is extra violent bloodshed.

Monday 9 March 2020

Blake's 7 - Powerplay


For those viewers new to Blake's 7, Series C continues as a lovely introduction. There are similarities to the first series as we essentially spend two episodes getting the crew together, ready to head off for adventures. Though I missed seeing Vila and Cally in Aftermath, introducing everyone across two episodes enables those two to have decent screentime and I liked that they both had their own little plots in Powerplay. This episode has a lot to do: Avon and Dayna are still getting to know each other, we need to reach Vila and Cally, plus include a plot that brings Tarrant in. It's impressive that on top of this, Vila and Cally are given a well-structured separate plot of their own.

To an extent, the fact I knew Tarrant would eventually be joining the Liberator affected my viewing. However, I was more inclined to believe he was a real Federation officer who would turn rogue and I was initially very convinced by his performance.

Despite my foreknowledge, I think I may still have rumbled him anyway. The murder of the first guard made me suspicious and there were more obvious hints that Tarrant was not all he seemed: we found out he arrived separately from the other guards, then when Avon and Dayna were hiding below the corridor, Tarrant paused over the hatch and clearly knew they were there, yet said nothing.

I do not trust Tarrant. I am unsure of his motivations for seeking the Liberator out. I remain doubtful of his backstory and think he is more of a criminal than an aspiring freedom fighter. I feel this, but acknowledge that I am hypocritical: I would have summarised most of the original Liberator crew this way when we first met them, especially Avon and Vila. Circumstances brought them together and it seemed enough to bind them. Like Jenna, Tarrant was a smuggler, but we quickly established that Jenna was a nice – too nice – smuggler. Tarrant now occupies the place of Avon in my view, as he’s the one I would expect to screw the others over. I need to see more of him though as it is currently all just vague distrust.

Avon and Dayna
It's great to watch Avon use his knowledge of the Liberator against the guards as it's so rare for the crew to have this type of advantage. It is also a good way of demonstrating to Dayna that he knows what he's doing - perhaps building up the trust between them; she has just run off with a complete stranger.

While Avon takes the lead, Dayna doesn't look left out and I enjoyed watching them together. Avon hasn't had particularly friendly relationships with any of the crew apart from Vila - his exchanges have often been functionary, issuing orders or plain hostile - so this is an interesting change. There is the potential for something more romantic between Avon and Dayna, but, as I said following Aftermath, I think such things would end badly. Having given it more thought since then, I would expect the series to kill off Dayna rather than let that carry on. So far though, she's continuing to impress me by getting involved with the physical fights. She has far less regard for life than Avon and isn't at all bothered or even interested in the death of the first guard.

Without ascribing any flirtatious connotations to their conversations, Avon is more relaxed with Dayna compared to when he first met the other Liberator crew. She might think he's secretive yet his overall demeanour is different. "Perhaps I'm just shy," is a lovely line and it appears a rushed response because Avon is suddenly realising that he now has little cause to be so secretive: he was understandably guarded originally, but no longer needs to be and his confidence is there in his firm declaration: "This is my ship." It was a comment that caught me for a moment until I realised that the Liberator really is all Avon's now. Powerplay's plot serves this nicely as well because Avon has fought for and earned the ship by the end.

Jenna and Blake
Jenna really has gone with no desire to be followed and I don’t blame her. It appears my belief following Aftermath was wrong - Blake cannot have deliberately disguised his destination because Zen was able to tell Avon where he had gone. I wondered why we have been given this information. My only conclusion is that Avon is going to try to find Blake, which would mean that despite the destruction of Star One, Avon still isn’t free of Blake after all.

Only a machine
Zen essentially disappeared as a substantial character during the last series. But as I spent so much of Series A critiquing him, it is only fair that I take a moment to commend him now, even if he is only a machine.

Despite a whole series of calling him a useless tosser, Zen’s betrayal – as I saw it – in Redemption remained hurtful - how dare he do this to our crew? However, I was pleased by his loyalty in Powerplay as he provided no control to the intruders. I don’t think we have previously established the idea of voice keys for Zen. It's something that seems as though it could come in useful in the future. Adding Dayna and Tarrant's keys is a suitable way of welcoming them on board, but I did think it seemed a bit premature in Tarrant's case. I want to yell: not all anti-Federation people are good guys!

Location, location, location
The location filming in this series has already been more impressive than in previous ones. Aftermath's visit to an actual sunny beach seems phenomenal as it would normally be inevitable for British weather to conspire against such plans and deliver grim, overcast days, even at the height of Summer. Blake's 7 may have used forests before, but Powerplay's setting is still different; Vila's clearing next to the stream with its rocks and vapour provides more variety than previous forest scenes.

Vila and Cally
It felt like it took forever to see Vila and Cally as I was still concerned - I later discovered it was a mere seven minutes until Vila appears! Vila's message that he was hurt was a nice bit of dragging out the suspense for those lengthy minutes. Knowing Vila, half of me expected him to have only a relatively minor injury. Once we saw his fire next to his escape capsule, it was clear he hadn't been able to move far for several days. I enjoyed the scene with Vila putting on voices to deter would-be attackers and it's the sort of tailored comedy gift for Michael Keating that can be provided now we are a few series in.

As Vila was led off to the facility, I was unsure whether or not to trust the Hi-Techs. Dudley Simpson's incidental music had wonderfully subtle notes that enabled a sense of foreboding to emerge. While this is a common technique in both film and television, it was just done so delicately here that I was really impressed. I've liked Blake's 7's sounds and soundtrack throughout but this episode in particular caught my ear. I especially enjoyed a small section when Avon and Dayna surfaced from the below the corridor, as it reminded me of a piece from the ITC series Man in a Suitcase (1967), for which I adore Albert Elm's soundtrack.

Cally has more focus in Powerplay than she did across most of the last series. Her backseat as teleport operator and occasional nurse has coloured my view of her as I expected her to be meek but I liked how she stood up to Servalan. It reminded me that in The Keeper she also refused to follow Avon's order to attack a second ship, so there has been something there and it would be good to see her character built on.

Servalan's gleeful reveal of the facility's purpose is so perfectly in character for her. The revelation that they were at an organ harvesting facility turned my stomach as nastily as it did Vila's face. Instantly, images flashed across my mind's eye of an episode of Waking the Dead (2000-2011) - the only one I've ever seen - in which a man had volunteered to sell one of his kidneys, but had then had his eyes stolen as well. That was the first time I became aware of the practice and I've continued to find it horrifying.

I wasn't clockwatching but I was sure we must be near the end of the episode so both immediately following the revelation and when Cally and Vila lay on the operating tables I was panicking, worried that the episode would end on another cliffhanger. I was so relieved when they teleported up - it felt like one of the worst last-second rescues yet.

Looking forward
There is some more Federation lore added when Tarrant tells us the guards on the Liberator are part of a Death Squad. It's extra information for those of us who have been watching for a while, as well as an easy way of telling the new audience that Blake's 7's bad guys are properly evil. Servalan's presence adds a tad more too.

A running theme throughout Series B was how undefeatable the Federation seemed, especially in the first half of that series, and I began to feel frustrated as the crew were repeatedly knocked back. Aftermath told us that the Federation was on its knees, barely surviving. But this did look like it could be a bluff and Powerplay shows the Federation comfortably holding on. The Death Squad survived the Battle for Star One and even after finding herself on a 'neutral' planet, Servalan has managed to wrangle a lift out of there. She is President now, presumably with even less to hold her back and with even more resources at her command, so, with a certain amount of trepidation for the new Team Avon, I am looking forward to what Servalan will do next.

Monday 2 March 2020

Blake's 7 - Aftermath


Star One is still vying in my affections for Best Episode So Far and I am fairly sure Aftermath didn't answer a single question I had at the end of it. Once again though, I didn't care because Aftermath has instead given us an interesting setup for a series that looks vastly different from the last couple.

I liked the new title sequence as its effects seem slightly more modern but I've grown hugely fond of the original, adoring the visuals almost as much as the theme, so I will miss it. Following this, a couple of papier-mâché models couldn't dampen my joy during the space battle as the explosions were superb. It's great when we can jump straight into the action and this situation felt unique because the series has never left us on such a clear cliffhanger before.

Do we need the Liberator?
I was sure the Liberator was gone. The episode's early shots had convinced me as we never saw anyone on the flight deck: all the shots were empty, and I wondered if the production was using old or unused shots from previous series because they had got rid of the set. On the beach, I felt a pang of sadness when Avon picked up then chucked aside his gun, realising it was useless without the Liberator to recharge it – I have loved the design of those weapons.

A weakness in this plotline is that taking away the Liberator then easily giving it back seemed like cheating. It would have been better to tell us that the Liberator might be failing. I spent the episode wondering how Avon was going to get off the planet when the episode should have made me worry whether the Liberator was going to survive.

Where is everyone?
I spent most of Aftermath feeling anxious – I wanted to know what had happened to the rest of the crew! “Jenna’s gone with Blake,” Cally told Avon as they were hurrying to escape the Liberator. Gone where? The ship was failing – where else could they go? Then we lost Cally and Vila too. Even after Avon managed to contact Zen, I still only knew about Jenna. A hospital ship may sound safe enough, but I remained a tad concerned that Jenna may fall into the Federation’s hands.

I found the details about Blake confusing and couldn’t work out whether he was still on the Liberator or not - it doesn't look like it. He appears to have deliberately left things in a state that means he cannot be traced - a more thorough disappearance than his one during Trial. I wonder if they will try a code word again to see if he has left another video message?

The end of the cult of Blake
I would not have expected to be happy with an episode that only really featured one member of the crew, but by the end, it had become apparent that Aftermath is setting up a series that will have Avon as the main lead.

Last series established a ‘cult of Blake’, where his name represented the actions of the Liberator crew; I’ve compared Blake to Robin Hood a couple of times but suddenly I’ve got a lot more sympathy for all those uncredited Merry Men. This, combined with his natural assumption of leadership, ensured it was Blake who the natives turned to when the Liberator visited anywhere.

The cult of Blake is still echoing in Aftermath with Mellanby saying, "Blake? You were with Blake? [...]Blake and the Liberator? I've been hearing reports for the last couple of years! You were magnificent!" Avon's reply is telling: "Not from where I was sitting." Avon has never been motivated in the same way as Blake and in Star One he had been determined to end his involvement in fighting the Federation.

Setting up the future
Star One is gone and so has the alien threat. The Federation is severely weakened. Avon’s got what he wanted – he just needs to outrun Servalan. I had expected Series B to see Servalan chasing the Liberator to try to get Orac and it seems like Series C could involve a similar plotline. Yet wouldn’t outrunning her be easier if the Federation was really, truly defeated? Or if Avon simply killed Servalan? Unlike Blake with Travis, I wouldn’t expect Avon to wait until his life depended on it to kill Servalan.

Series B had incrementally created real antagonism between Avon and Travis, but Servalan has often operated from a distance and with Travis gone/dead/in a parallel universe, it makes sense to increase the animosity between Avon and Servalan. If Avon is stepping in to replace Blake, this new series has a lot to do.

The scenes between Avon and Servalan were my favourites in the episode. It was wonderful to watch two such compelling actors for a decent length of time and a lovely insight into where the series might head.

Avon doubts they are alike but I am unsure why as Servalan's summary of, "You are ambitious, ruthless, you want power and you never let conscience stand in the way of achieving it," is close - I might have substituted power for money, but then he did fancy taking control of Star One. However, Avon's response, "You overestimate me," is accurate, something I realised when I understood that I had too.

"It's a great pity that you and I have always been on opposite sides, Servalan," Avon says, and until recently I wouldn't have put it past him to change sides. Servalan describes him as "infinitely corruptible" but Avon almost immediately proves her wrong when he wisely turns down her offer of ruling the galaxy together. As they went in for that kiss, with the atmosphere the scene had built up, I was still wondering if Avon would join her for a chance at everything.

Regardless of the logic of that particular moment, I don't believe Avon is all that ruthless anymore - he just doesn't act like the same person that nearly abandoned everyone on Horizon. Avon is presented in a more human, mortal way: he's knocked unconscious; his body can't withstand the g-force in the escape pod; he remains weak after the landing; he is alone and gets into plenty of physical fights; his emotions have rarely seemed so apparent, as he is concerned about his friends throughout the episode and is impatient and anxious while trying to contact Zen. It felt like Servalan had caught him off-guard and in a rare, vulnerable moment when she walked in. Over time I began to think Travis had an advantage over Blake because he was prepared to act so remorselessly, and I am concerned that Servalan has the same over Avon.

Dayna: the action woman Blake's 7 deserves
I had seen later publicity photos featuring a couple of new people, so I recognised Dayna without knowing her name and realised she would probably be coming with Avon at the end of Aftermath.

I immediately liked Dayna because she was an action woman. We meet her when she shoots someone in the back using a bow and arrow: she looks incredible. She tells Avon, "Without danger, there's no pleasure," and I was already thinking: you're going to love life with our lot. I would be so disappointed if this characterisation was dropped because I am hoping the production has learned from the mistakes they made with Jenna.

Blake prevented Avon from killing people several times, so it was an interesting change of position when Avon stopped Dayna murdering a Saren. Blake’s reasonings were always hanging by a thread I felt, while here Avon’s is in keeping with his character as he deduces it will only bring reprisals from the other Sarens. I've considered Avon a keen shooter, but Dayna is something else and has clearly been itching for more action. Blake did alright, but Avon always appeared more able when it came to hand-to-hand combat. It will be great to have someone else equally competent in their skills and who also seems to enjoy a good fight.

It was almost inevitable that Dayna's father, Mellanby, had to get killed. The episode needs a reason for her to leave the planet and a strong reason for her to hate Servalan, which will presumably motivate her from now on because she was pretty apathetic about the Federation in a 'live and let live' way. The grim fate of her sister cements it (The Keeper should take note: THAT is how you show "they're a cruel lot on Goth").

Avon's reaction following the discovery of both bodies ensures we see the man we have known. His line to Dayna on Mellanby, "He got away from here after all," is misjudged and reminded me of his inappropriate remarks after the Dreamer's death in Shadow. Though in Shadow the effect was intentional, I don't think he understood the impact of his quip here until afterwards; maybe that is why he says nothing when they find Dayna's sister and instead stands to stare, blankly, allowing her those moments.

I’m all in favour of healthy curiosity
Blake’s 7 hasn’t really done intimacy. It’s done sexy and, while I’d argue that there has been something from both sexes, in a very 1970s' way, the show has leaned more towards 'something for the dads'. Dayna’s kiss was mildly surprising, yet it came across as cheeky flirting, so although it will stay in the back of my mind, I don’t expect much to come from it. Regardless of what fan fiction may want to imagine (I’m told), personally, I think things would quickly get complicated if there was a free for all of snogging on the Liberator.

While it had been a long time since the first kiss between people of different races on British television, the moment left me curious how it would have been received in 1980. I know racism was still a lot more prominent than today but I wasn’t sure just how deep that went throughout the general population. Starting in 1983, the British Social Attitudes survey asked people if they would mind if a close relative married a black or Asian person. 57% of people answered “a little” or “a lot” for the former, with 51% for the latter. The most recent statistics I can find show that by 2013 this had fallen to 22% and 21% respectively. It’s certainly an indication that Avon and Dayna would have raised a few eyebrows across the country, at the very least.

New beginnings
I was expecting this episode to feel like more of a Part Two to Star One, yet it functions fantastically as a separate episode. Partly, its because there is an awful lot going on: the Liberator seems to be gone, we have lost everyone, Servalan turns up, there's some action with the Sarens in a totally new type of location (surely this isn't the end of Blake's 7's visits to quarries and forests?), and then - BASE UNDER THE SEA.

As a series opener, Aftermath is also a decent introduction for new viewers: we are drawn in with a swift space battle - long enough to indulge but short enough to avoid boredom - then spend most of the episode following a single regular character, learn about their personality, meet their new friend, get to know the main baddie and understand their relationship - all with a bit of plot that offers some action. Aftermath works as a very character-driven episode and it's an impressive feat to provide something extraordinary for the regular audience, while also reinventing the series in a way that provides an accessible entry point for a new one.

I don't want to make too many assumptions yet about what is different about this series. I do think Aftermath offers a suitable link to the last one though as it conveys that no one is safe in this world: here are three lead characters - now two of them are missing; have an exposition scene with two Federation guards setting everything up - oh, they've both been killed; meet Dayna's father and sister - we will brutally murder them.
At the start of the last series, I explained what spoilers I had encountered for Blake’s 7, which didn’t actually have any bearing on my viewing of Series B but already has a tad for Series C.

I have known that Jenna, Cally and Blake all disappear at some point. Jenna is on the hospital ship and as far as I’m concerned that’s it for her. I’m not so sure about Cally or Blake and I can’t figure out whether we will see either of them again. I hope so.

The photos I had seen meant I recognised Dayna. Aftermath’s credits confirmed that the man on the Liberator at the end of the episode is Tarrant, whose name I had seen with his photo before. If anything, this has left me even more confused though – who is he? What is he doing on the Liberator if he’s a Federation officer? Is he or has he stolen the uniform?

I was so keen to press on with Aftermath after Star One’s cliffhanger. But although that was exciting, Aftermath has opened up such a huge number of questions about characters and where this new series will be heading that it has made me want to press on even more than Star One’s ending did.