Monday 2 December 2019

Blake's 7 - Trial

"You're not going to use me anymore."

Trial was an odd experience in that I had never felt so indifferent about what the Liberator crew were up to. You could have chopped the regulars out, stuck all the Space Command scenes together, and I would probably have been happy with a half-hour episode that didn't feature the Liberator crew until the final five minutes.

Do we need the Liberator crew?
The Liberator’s activities are a sideshow compared to the episode’s main event – it’s even in the title! It didn’t take long to realise the production wanted an episode to move along Servalan and Travis’s stories but still needed to find something for the main cast to do. I’m not sure we have had an episode where so few of the crew have been off the Liberator, and I don’t think it matters. Blake’s little adventure on the planet is filler and though I didn’t find it dull, it did seem pointless. Maybe the climate change parallels didn’t seem so stark in 1979.

Blake’s reason for going was for some solo contemplation so if he did have to meet someone, I would have liked it to link to the rest of the plot, with him seriously trying to decide whether he should carry on. Trial would have possibly worked better as a Blake-lite episode. Just have him disappear to the planet and have the tension come from the uncertainty of whether he and the other crew will choose to keep the rendezvous. Maybe Chris ‘Many Plots’ Boucher wasn’t prepared to give Blake’s 7’s eponymous lead such a small role in any episode.

I’m torn on this though as I think the scenes at Space Command headquarters work well because they are all a good length. It’s easy for courtroom scenes to get dull and repetitive. Along with the scenes in Servalan’s office, we are essentially just watching people sat around talking. Similarly, the only reason the Liberator crew must jump into any action on board is that they realise Blake’s bollocksed and going to drown on the planet. Therefore, without that little ‘filler’ plot, Chris Boucher would have had to expand those Space Command scenes and provide more in-depth debate among Jenna, Cally, Vila and Avon. I’m not sure this would have made a balanced episode as the only real excitement and action would have come at the end, with no growth to the climax.

Do we need Blake?
I struggled to work Blake out during Trial. For a moment, I thought: what if he actually does leave them? I hadn't expected us to lose a regular character barely midway through a series and now it feels like the show might do anything. That's wonderfully exciting.

Blake's voice message was convincing, but I’ve previously thought what Avon voices here – Blake feels guilty, and this drives him more than real care for his friends lives because the cause has always been more important. Yet I am no longer sure.

What would Blake have done if the crew had decided to leave him on that planet? He gave them that option and if they had done, his cause would have been lost. Why give them that if he wasn't prepared to give up everything for them?

Yet maybe he is as deceitful as Avon believes. I struggled to believe that the passionate, determined man I have watched up to now would be willing to stop fighting just because of one, albeit close, casualty. Maybe Blake is also very arrogant, so was convinced the others would never actually leave him, and only wanted it to look like he was giving them a choice about their future. Whatever Blake decides is normally what they end up doing. With Cally as his only confidant for recent plans, he may have perceived the unhappy rumblings within the rest of the crew. It is possible he believed giving them a choice for once would placate everyone. Well, everyone except Avon.

Not one of your followers
I enjoyed Avon and Blake's private chat in Pressure Point and they have a couple in Trial as well. There was no time to dwell on Gan’s death at the end of Pressure Point but I would have been surprised if Avon hadn't made some remarks eventually. I rewound a few times because I adored watching Avon's stony exterior as he riled the already highly-strung Blake. While the two of them often push one another's buttons, Avon essentially says here that he will encourage the others to leave Blake to die!

Avon "It occurs to me that if you run into trouble, one of your followers, one of your three remaining followers, might have to risk his neck to rescue you."
Blake "Then you must advise them against that, Avon.
Avon "Oh I will."
Blake "They might even listen to you this time."
Avon "Why not? After all, I don't get them killed."

Avon's words have certainly been considered and calculated - he does not include himself in Blake's number of followers. It's a nice couple of little digs one after the other. Avon's utter stillness was a tad unsettling and Blake looks like he has been on edge for a while. It’s important to pick up that Avon doesn't actually want Blake dead - he just doesn't want anyone to die for him. It would have been relatively easy to leave Blake to die on that planet when things started to go wrong, but I think Avon must see the advantages of Blake being around. He may dislike how Blake goes about things, but Avon isn't keen on the Federation either and probably still wants his idea from Pressure Point to go ahead: Blake will leave the Liberator to lead an organised rebellion movement and the ship can become his.

Follow the leader?
Gan's death is used as the driver for the events here, although I don’t think it needed to be - Blake’s adventure on the planet is incidental compared to the deliberations back on the ship. I would have liked to have seen more debate among the crew, but they do all seem to have similar feelings. At one time Jenna would have jumped to Blake’s defence and loudly insist they stay but there is none of that from anyone. They are all questioning whether they are doing the right thing.

I’m pleased that Blake’s 7 has addressed this. There has never been any real debate about what their purpose should be. Apart from Avon, none of the crew has ever questioned if they could do anything besides this crusade against the Federation. Following Cygnus Alpha, everyone has been willing to give Blake the benefit of the doubt at least. This didn't have to have come about because of Gan's death as I think the powerful shock of that empty room was enough. If Control is what they need to bring down the Federation, how are they ever going to find it now?

When Blake returns, Avon makes a point of telling him that his crew nearly abandoned him. I think, like their conversation in Pressure Point, Avon wants to ensure Blake realises he is not indispensable as a leader. Despite the humour of Avon telling Vila that while Vila is following Blake, Avon is being led by him, I think there is a difference. They may all originally have been following Blake but the dynamic on board has begun to change. The hesitation of everyone demonstrates they may be willing to be led by someone else.

Avon now carefully chooses his moments alone with Blake to deliver these comments that are designed to knock him down a peg or two, as well as reinforcing Blake's guilt. The others may have jumped in to tell Avon that his digs about Gan were harsh or that they were never really going to leave Blake. Regardless of whether they meant it, it would bolster Blake and Avon's words would lose some of their impact. I wonder if this is strategic of Avon, to make Blake doubt himself and ultimately hurry up in leaving them.

We get our best Paul Darrow grin for a while when Jenna asks Avon, "What would you know about guilt?" and he replies, "Only what I've read!" Avon is a little too confident about how much emotions affect him, turning Series A's 'machine' comments on their head, but I think he may just have been lucky so far.

Travis's trial
Despite only having appeared in a couple of episodes so far this series, Servalan and Travis’s relationship has clearly developed since Series A. She’s always been delightfully evil but this felt a new low. As she and the Major were speaking, my brain was wracking who could be on trial, and when I established it couldn’t be Blake, I knew it must be Travis.

We learn bits and pieces from the conversations of the assessors (including lovely nuggets like the poor food quality of Space Command) and they think that Servalan wants Travis dead so he can’t spill her secrets. When we also learn that there is an upcoming enquiry into “the Blake affair”, this makes slightly more sense. They reckon Travis would now be more willing to speak against her if they postponed his execution until after the inquiry. My query is: would Travis have condemned Servalan if she hadn’t managed to put him on trial? What secrets of hers would he be spilling to the Federation that he wasn’t part of himself?

In their earlier appearances, I had assumed that all their plans were Federation-sanctioned, but it became clear that this has not always been the case so Travis may have quite a bit to reveal. Space Commanders cannot simply ‘disappear’ though, hence the trial. Despite that cool exterior, Servalan must have become concerned to risk going through with this.

Travis’s genocide was mentioned when we were first introduced to the character and it appeared that Servalan had managed to make this investigation disappear because she felt he would be useful. Maybe Travis has now simply outlived his usefulness. He’s had Blake cornered on several occasions and had him slip through his fingers. This has rarely actually been Travis’s fault and indeed, the end of Pressure Point was arguably Servalan’s own fault for getting caught by Jenna.

If Servalan wanted to replace Travis, she couldn’t dismiss him and have him walk away with all that knowledge of their illegal actions. This feels like such a shift from those scenes in Deliverance when she was relaxed, had him in the palm of her hand, and confided to him about her dastardly plot to obtain Orac. Even with all the evidence so far, I think I have probably underestimated Servalan’s evilness. I presumed some degree of loyalty between her and Travis. She could have dismissed him after Project Avalon, she could have got rid of him after Orac, yet instead reconvened with him after his mysterious “conditioning”, which I have always thought she must have had a hand in. Perhaps she already felt he knew too much then, but still had hope he could stop Blake.

Travis's humanity
Prior to Trial, I considered Travis the more brutal of the two, but in Series B we have seen more of them both and there is something redeemable within Travis. We saw it in Deliverance when he was initially hesitant about ruining the surgeon who repaired his hand. It was a brief hesitation, but it was there.

In Trial, we see a small bond between the Federation Trooper who had fought under Travis during the genocide, and who smuggles him a hipflask. When Travis comes to escape, he and the Trooper both seem willing to shoot one another but Travis clearly doesn’t want to and ultimately chooses not to kill the man, instead karate chopping him unconscious. Why? Why not just shoot him? The Trooper had said that Travis never showed care for his men – his respect was due to Travis being a good fighter. Yet it appears Travis does have a tiny ounce of selfless humanity in him.

For anyone else, a demonstration that they aren't a complete psychopath would be a Very Good Thing. However, for Travis I think this could be a weakness and Servalan is good at exploiting people's weaknesses.

The Federation
We haven't seen a great deal of the Federation's internal workings. We've heard about them but apart from tons of dispensable guards, the Federation's hierarchy has been represented only by Servalan. As such, it's been relatively easy to just stamp it all as evil. Yet in Trial I got the impression that the Federation began with good intentions, yet its corruption became so widespread that it inevitably went irretrievably wrong, until such things became normal.

There is a trial and unlike Blake's, it doesn't look like a foregone conclusion. The assessors are frustrated that Servalan seems able to get away with doing whatever she wants. They judge that Travis definitely is a terrible person, and, something that I found surprising, say that the Federation don't want people like that representing them. Penal colonies, slave labour, a Big Brother society - fine, but blatant genocide is a step too far. I still don't doubt that the Federation as a governing system is bloody horrific, but there do appear to be people within it who are trying to do good-ish things. After this episode, it looked as though the Federation may be dreadful, but Servalan is downright appalling. I'm not set on this at all and look forward to seeing how it plays out further.

Dastardly design
I know the Federation may be the greatest source of evil in the Blake's 7 universe, but it does also possess some superb designers. I am a big fan of the logo of the Federation and the series. However, last series the version on the guards' uniform was incredibly naff and looked like it had been sellotaped on their chests. Thankfully, this has now been rectified and it looks much smarter.

If this impressed me, I was even more thrilled when the assessors turned up for the trial sporting silver Federation logos. SILVER. I thought they were gorgeous. And John 'I say, I say' Savident is here to wear one. Are there other variations? Are there gold logos for higher ranking people? Is it purely for official events like trials and ceremonies? Can I get one?

I would also be happy to possess the trial room. I love how the silver, white and black complements the uniforms of the assessors. I like that the room is not simply round or square but both its shape and the furnishings are constructed around semi-circle and curved designs. The assessors sit on a raised area with a silver, almost dripping, effect behind them. Everything looks open and bright, yet the accused sits in the middle of the room, with everything built to look at them, judging.

I like the symmetry going on with the white and coloured pedestals on each side - I think these were used to accept evidence. This is also present in the lovely black chairs on white, round platforms, which are extended versions of Travis's single black chair. That curved high back looks great.

Winners and losers
Series A often felt triumphant. The Liberator crew were knocking little chunks out of the Federation and it was such a joy as Blake’s 7 established the regime’s vileness so quickly. Yet these were mere flesh wounds and in contrast, Series B has shown how hard it is to have any larger, significant impact against the Federation. It feels so far-reaching, impenetrable, and, I keep coming back to that word – invulnerable. Blake especially has realised the importance of having a more organised rebellion, but Shadow, Horizon and Pressure Point have been repeated knock-backs. It must be increasingly detrimental for their morale. At this point, Trial is a well-placed episode for everyone to stop and consider whether they should go on. As this appears to be settled, I will be interested to see if Blake looks to alter his strategy. While they do all appear willing to continue for now, I am not sure everyone shares Blake’s passion – it really is an obsession, and his complex history with the Federation likely means his dedication to its destruction will always be the strongest.

I was incredibly excited by the end of Trial. Well, not the very end - this is the second episode that has ended with the crew laughing together and it's nastily cringey. My brain has lingered on the scene when Travis burst into Servalan's office. I never expected to be cheering Travis on but I was so bloody pleased. Although we had seen their relationship change this series, I hadn't been expecting it to develop so quickly and I wouldn't have predicted them to part ways either. This really is grim for Blake, who doesn't even know about it yet! He will now be pursued by two enemies. Travis may not be as creatively-vile as Servalan every day of the week, but it's different when it comes to Blake. I cannot wait to see the next time they meet, with Travis completely unrestrained from Servalan and the Federation. I'm also excited to see how this situation develops - will Servalan care more about capturing Blake or Travis?

Sunday 24 November 2019

Blake's 7 - Pressure Point

Pressure Point
"It is a challenge!"

After a few episodes from other writers, I felt bad that the appearance of Terry Nation’s name in Pressure Point’s titles sent a pang of disappointment through me. I had been enjoying different types of episodes and didn’t want that unknown variety to end. Weapon and Horizon had both impressed me, so Terry was going to have to seriously up his game.

Back to Earth with bloody Blake
Although there have been times when Jenna seemed the closest crew member to Blake, Cally is emerging as a confidant. At the start of Pressure Point, she is the only one who appears to be aware of his full plans for returning to Earth. Avon had suspicions but everyone else expected them to merely take a nearby look at the Federation's defences.

This secretiveness of Blake's has always annoyed me and is why I will continue to curse him. The crew should be equals and I think he should be completely open with them. I have made my efforts with Blake and have felt less disgruntled with him in Series B, but these actions make me distrustful of him. Nonetheless, I do understand his reasoning for hiding his true intentions on this occasion. The others would never have agreed to return to Earth in the way he has planned, but now that they are actually so close and he has established plans with a resistance group, all of them come around to the idea.

Blake has never had to convince all the crew to take part in a mission before – there have always been a few of them, usually Jenna and Gan, who are happy to do whatever he suggests. That every one of them is against it demonstrates how ludicrously dangerous it is and also that there is only so far that the loyalty of even the most loyal can stretch.

I may dislike Blake at times, I may think he can be an arse, but he remains a superb character to watch and I adored Gareth Thomas in the opening scene. He wonderfully showcases Blake's passion and determination: "I want to hit at the heart and the heart of the Federation is Earth!" This works even better next to the lacklustre attitudes of the others. Avon may afford him a sarcastic little clap, but I loved watching Blake eulogise about the importance of attacking Control - "It's a challenge!" Cally is the only one who is interested and she clearly knows little about it compared to the others. The assertion that the Federation "advertised" its existence is a massive alarm bell, as it appears the Federation has complete confidence in its impregnability.

Despite all this, Blake convincingly conveys why they need to attack Control: "All the might and the power of the Federation is represented by Control. While it exists, the Federation is invulnerable!"

I want it all
At first, it appears that Avon might not join the others in agreeing to Blake's plan, though he soon says he will. The chat between Avon and Blake on the sofas was fascinating. They spent Series A scheming and plotting everything out in their heads, yet now feel able to be more open; it didn't take much prodding from Blake for Avon to reveal his thoughts. I felt a tension to their discussion but nothing either of them said seemed to take the other by surprise. Avon predicts that if Blake's plan is a success, the resistance movement on Earth will need a leader and Blake is the natural choice. This would leave the Liberator free for Avon.

I'm not entirely sure what Avon would do with himself if he had the Liberator and/or a crew for it. I know he ideally wants to be able to roam freely without constantly looking over his shoulder for Federation pursuit ships. If Blake's resistance movement was keeping them occupied, Avon would probably have that. Avon likes being challenged, he likes solving problems, he likes exercising his intelligence and technological skills. I am not sure how great a leader he would be. After what he's got up to as part of the Liberator crew, I imagine going back to robbing banks may seem below par. The only concrete desire he expressed was in Breakdown when he tried to join the research organisation. Will that still satisfy him now that he's been through a bit more freedom fighting or does he need something with more action? Perhaps while the Federation has any power the events of Breakdown and Horizon have made the idea of remaining in a single place less attractable.

The Liberator is an extremely powerful and advanced ship - maybe that is enough for Avon to play with. "Sooner or later I will have my chance," he tells Blake. It's a slight threat. "There's no hurry," Blake responds, and I struggled to work out what he meant. This is one of the most reasonable discussions they have had and their great clashes from Series A have truly mellowed - I do miss that a little. Perhaps Blake means that he will eventually be happy to hand over the Liberator. After all, his goal is to destroy the Federation so what use would he have of the ship once that is achieved?

Blake's long-term ideas do not seem concrete. When Avon tells him he is the most likely leader for a revolt, his answer is, "Perhaps..." This modesty is surprising. Blake so easily assumed the leadership of the Liberator and is the most ardent enthusiast for attacking the Federation that I assumed he would jump at the chance to lead a properly organised movement against it. What is making him hesitate? We have started to see how much his name has spread across the planets and how much people admire him. Why is he unsure of himself? Is he starting to feel the pressure of leadership?

One vision
Blake’s plan to attack the Federation’s central monitoring complex looks suicidal from the outset. As the episode progresses, the odds are increasingly bleak. The crew’s provision for helping him is that they will pull out if there is less than an even chance. Even as Blake was agreeing to this condition, I was sceptical that he would stick to it, however, I was imagining they would all be on the ground together and he could be forced into pulling out. After Blake and Gan discover the resistance group’s sole survivor, Veron, Blake chooses to carry on, lying to the others by not revealing what has happened. Vila and Avon are immediately suspicious so perhaps they are learning from Blake. He only tells them what he needs to in order to get his own way. I thought this was a scummy, selfish move on Blake’s part, as they have gone from having an army to support them, back to going it alone, something the crew would not have agreed to.

What the plot
I found Pressure Point good fun overall, though there were some plot elements that jarred. We had heard Servalan telling the mutoids to take Veron so when Blake and Gan found her, I knew it must be a trap of some sort. This is a fairly easy one for the audience to figure out, though impossible for the two crew. We have seen robots and clones, though it seemed too little time to produce one of these, so I assumed some type of brainwashing. It slipped my mind that they might just have blackmailed her. They should have become suspicious when she seemed baffled by the word 'teleporter' - even if it is only a reality for the Liberator, I am doubtful that it had fallen out of fictional use and no other Blake's 7 characters have been confused by it.

After being trapped in the cave, the crew’s escape then seemed a little too easy. They spent all of five minutes trying to get out! Surely Travis should have been standing by much closer.

As the audience had witnessed the earlier destruction of two resistance members, there were definitely some nerves when the crew came to cross the minefield. As one of the episode's opening scenes, I let out a number of surprised expletives as the two men were blown up. I continue to be impressed with the kind of violence that Blake's 7 manages. Yet despite the initial challenge, it didn’t take Avon long to overcome the defences by simply shooting at it. These obstacles consist of strips on the ground, vaguely resembling a motherboard but mostly they reminded me of rainbow belt sweets. I thought the self-repairing function of the strips was marvellous. Running the film backwards is a simple enough technique but I thought it was a clever idea that looked realistic and was therefore really effective.

I can brush past these minor aspects. The deceit with Veron was obvious to the audience but not the characters, and if the episode had spent too long in the cave or overcoming the minefield I would probably be moaning that it was dragged out and dull. However, the plot’s final conclusion was frustrating.

Let me out
Terry Nation has spent the episode getting Blake inside Control so he can fall into Travis’s trap. Having done so, Terry Nation now has a problem. There are only a few minutes left but we can’t end on a cliffhanger (we haven't so far, so let's presume not for now), therefore Terry needs to get everyone out. Cue Jenna with a gun to Servalan for a sudden rescue. We haven’t seen Jenna since she teleported from the Liberator – I don’t think we even saw her get down and safe. How did she even get inside Control? How did she find Servalan? How did she get past the guards or any other defences? I felt cheated.

The crew have had a last-minute win against Travis several times under Terry Nation and I've generally been happy with them. The endings to both Project Avalon and Orac humiliated Travis so were immensely satisfying. The sudden reprieve in Orac worked because we had cut back to the other crew so much during the episode, and we did actually see Vila and Avon come down. The rescue in Pressure Point is similar, with an extra crew member appearing to turn a gun on Travis and Servalan. It makes me wonder whether scenes of Jenna arriving on Earth had to be cut for timing - this is a pretty packed episode.

We are the champions
If Pressure Point had ended there in that empty room after Travis had appeared, it would have been perfect. I was so pleased with that. The twist of that empty cavernous room and its stunning silence was lovely. Blake had been so sure and spent a year building up towards this, convinced it was the way to knock a significant chunk out of the Federation's power. The sheer determination in Blake is evident in the moments before they enter as he furiously tells Vila that he has to get them in. They have overcome both the above and underground defences, the resistance movement risked their lives to help them and Blake had promised to get everyone out if it looked too bad. Now it looks disastrous and Travis and the mutoids have been racing what feels like mere inches behind them.

The mighty Travis has had a bad run of luck against Blake, to the extent that it was beginning to look too easy to defeat him. Travis managed to trick Blake and it worked. It never even occurs to Blake or the other Liberator crew that this could be a trap. Blake's escape is not his own doing - it is sheer luck and he knows it as he doesn't even waste time gloating. It was horrifying to see Travis finally have Blake in his clutches, his appearance in the scene marked perfectly by his out-of-shot pantomime villain laughter. Despite what Blake has repeatedly said about the advantages of knowing his enemy, it was wonderful for Pressure Point to show that this isn't a foolproof strategy. Blake's cries of, "We've done it!" upon entering the room change to, "I've done it!" showing that he's not the team player he likes to think he is and perhaps ignoring other opinions once too often is part of his downfall.

I had mixed feelings about the direction all episode, which is courtesy of George Spenton-Foster. There are several scenes where I thought I should be seeing something else or have a shot from a different angle. In this one, with Blake on his knees, there is a missed opportunity to point the camera up at Travis and have him gloating down at us. Instead, we get a profile shot of his eyepatch side and I feel we are missing something. When Servalan appears, all of Travis's dialogue is from offscreen as we don't cut away from her at all. I began to get the impression that the episode was on a tight schedule either throughout or at least by this scene.

I felt myself warming to Brian Croucher during Pressure Point, even if I am still mourning Stephen Grief. I think I need to see him being a bit more vicious and evil though - a repeat of a close encounter like that in Duel may help seal the deal. But this is definitely Travis as I loved how the episode emphasised his hatred of Blake. When Jenna and Servalan arrive, Servalan tells Travis to release Blake and the others. A stunned Travis hesitates, reluctant to have to let his prize go so soon after gaining it. He hesitates. "You hesitated! My life was in danger and you hesitated!" screams Servalan afterwards with a slap. That slap! Glorious, deserved and exactly how Weapon had made me hope their relationship would head. Last series I would have said that Travis's loyalty was absolute and I still think it is, yet clearly his desperate desire to capture Blake is starting to cloud his judgement, becoming all-encompassing.

Servalan: A history
The emotions that this personal vendetta elicits in Travis are his greatest weakness. He may even realise this to an extent, as he earlier warns Servalan about making things personal when they have captured her old teacher-turned-resistance-leader, Kasabi. This plot strand was very interesting as we have hitherto never learned much about Servalan's past. The discovery that she has always shown loyalty to the Federation was hardly a surprise, even though I believe she has now largely forsaken this in favour of personal gains.

Kasabi's assertion that Servalan quickly worked her way up due to family connections was more thought-provoking. I find myself regularly reassessing what sort of totalitarian dictatorship I think the Federation is and of course, it is a composite of all the worst elements of all of them. I suppose this element took me by surprise a little because I have never considered the bland, emotionless face of the Federation as somewhere in which loving families help each other up the greasy pole of power.

The interrogation of Kasabi seemed like the first time that Servalan has been more sadistic than Travis. She really enjoyed having that power over Kasabi, who was impressively tough at resisting. Though sadistic is possibly not the right word; while Travis likes hurting people, I think Servalan does just like having power over them. It was interesting that they didn't particularly rub Kasabi's death in with her daughter Veron. Both just stated it matter-of-factly, perhaps because they expected to gain nothing further.

One bites the dust
Poor Gan and poor David Jackson. Gan's death was completely unexpected. I didn't pick up on any sense of foreboding - the episode just got on with the plot as usual. I knew we couldn't have much of the episode left and thought we would just see everyone leg it to the exit before teleporting up. As a regular character, Gan has had the rawest deal and I've discussed previously how underdeveloped he has felt. Blake's 7 barely explored his background and I do think more could have been done with the Liberator's gentle giant. His death was a last-minute shock but I don't expect the show to dwell on it and sadly I don't think we will notice his absence too much. Gan dies saving everyone, which is a noble exit for a man who never hesitated to step up, had great loyalty to Blake especially, and was willing to put his brute strength in the firing line to aid the rest of the Liberator crew.

Delightful and distasteful design
Servalan's costume is one of her least revealing and with her jacket and wide-brimmed hat, I couldn't shake the impression that she looked dressed for her wedding. There must have been something contractual that required Jacqueline Pearce to show a certain amount of flesh because said jacket and hat are gone for her final scenes. Instead we get a superb dress with a stunning silver lizard-like creature appearing to hold it together in the centre. A shot of her standing in the doorway of Control's empty room ensures a full view, satisfying viewers for another week.

On the other end of the scale, Vila's costume has been altered for the worst this week. While the budget has undoubtedly increased this series, there comes a time when economies are needed so Vila's grey outfit has been brightened up this week with the addition of a white belt and yellow bits of plastic. He's gained some large cuffs and a half-cape-half-waistcoat thing. Unfortunately the episode's direction meant we were several scenes in before I was able to work out what the cape-waistcoat thing actually was. The first few scenes only featured Michael Keating from the waist up so we couldn't see this new addition properly. Once we can, it remains unimpressive and seems utterly pointless.

The episode's design winner for me was the doors inside Control. Bathed in blue light, the sliding double doors are etched with the Federation's symbol. I love this symbol as I find it such a nice piece of design. I enjoy spotting it used throughout Blake's 7 and usually the subtler the better, but on this occasion, you know what - go for it and stick a great big symbol on a set of doors. More please.

Under pressure
Pressure Point flew by for me and was action-packed. From the beginning, Blake's plan seemed destined to go wrong but it did not happen in the way I expected. The word 'challenge' recurs throughout the episode. Blake wants to take on Control partly because, "It is a challenge!" and Avon agrees to join him because, he says, "I like the challenge," - something we have seen in Avon before. When they finally reach Control's empty room, Travis tells Blake that the Federation, "used [Control] as a challenge to our enemies." Being unable to resist a challenge has become a weakness and even worse, a predictable one. After outsmarting Travis for some time, Blake has once again become predictable: "You believed it, Blake, like all the other fools before you."

I like the idea of the crew joining together with resistance groups as it ties in with Blake's idea of a base on Horizon - I think any resistance movements are going to have become more unified and organised to stand any chance against the Federation. These isolated pockets will only ever be able to do so much damage. I know he's an evil sod, but seeing Travis get so close to beating Blake was marvellous and leaves more uncertainty for the future. Our heroes are supposed to always win in the end, yet they have just lost one of their regular characters, proving no one is truly invulnerable in the Blake's 7 universe, except, it would seem, the Federation.