Best of Blake’s 7 – Terminal

S03EP13 – And so BLAKE’s 7 came to the end of the road–or at least it was supposed to. At the end of a season that was a bit haphazard and lacking in overall direction–while at the same time containing several of the show’s best episodes,–BLAKE’s 7 was going to be airing its final episode on March 31, 1980. Accordingly, the wrap-up was written by the show’s creator Terry Nation. And he was as surprised as the actors and the production team were that, when the episode’s final credits were rolling, a BBC announcer assured viewers that BLAKE’S 7 would be returning for a new series in the future. That was how virtually everybody connected with the show found out that they were going to do a fourth season–and that they were going to once again have to dig themselves out of the rubble of what they had done to the show in what was intended to be its swan song.

That all said, TERMINAL was a really good episode, and probably a stronger entry to go out on that the eventual climax, for that that the actual ending’s Butch and Sundance finale impacted on viewers almost more than the rest of the show did. But TERMINAL does a good job of completing the character arc of the series, particularly this third series in which the absence of the lead character is keenly felt.

The story could almost be titled Avon’s Folly. The episode opens with a tight close-up on Avon, hands over his eyes. We learn that he’s commandeered the flight deck for the past thirty hours, and with Zen’s help has been guiding the Liberator on an unknown course for unknown reasons. Down in the teleport room, the rest of the crew has been reduced to playing board games to pass the time–and as you’d expect, Vila’s advice to Dayna about the next move she should make causes Cally to immediately win the game. Tarrant has had enough at this point, and he goes up to the flight deck to confront Avon. There, he learns that Avon has changed his course, but can’t get any more information out of the stubborn man. “How do we approve of something we don’t know about?” asks Tarrant. “You could try trusting me.” is Avon’s clipped reply, and hearkens back in a way to his last exchange with Blake in STAR ONE.

As Tarrant turns to go, Zen announces that the Liberator has arrived at the requested coordinates. But there is nothing here–the ship is 96 hours away from the nearest life-supporting world. Avon wavers for a moment, almost ready to tell Tarrant what has drawn him here–but then Zen announces that he is receiving the signal, and Avon clams up. He orders Tarrant off the flight deck, then reads the message visually at his console to avoid the possibility that Tarrant or any of the others might overhear. Afterwards, he orders Zen to respond in the affirmative, and to set the new course that they have received. With that, he leaves the flight deck to get some rest–and when the rest of the crew demands to know where the ship is going, he tells them that he doesn’t have the slightest idea. What’s more, when Tarrant and the others question Zen about what is going on, they learn that Avon has placed all of that information under a security lockdown so that only he can access it. The crew is flying blind.

Which is a problem, as Zen warns about a broad range of unidentified fluid directly in the Liberator’s flight path. The smart play here would be to divert course and go around it–but Avon is on a tight schedule, and so he overrides the others’ commands and orders Zen to carry on with their current trajectory. This is his first major miscalculation, and perhaps his most significant one. Tarrant gets in Avon’s face, demanding that he tell them what he’s doing or he and the others will stop it. “No, you’re not. Nothing and nobody is going to stop it, you least of all. Now get out of my way and stay out of my way.” And we pull back to see that Avon has his pistol pressed up against Tarrant’s stomach and is only instants from pulling the trigger before he turns and stalks off.

The Liberator plunges into the fluid cloud, and the crew is forced to endure the resulting turbulence. But after the ship passes out the other side, Zen reports that the only damage appears to be that the hull sensors have been rendered inoperative, and the ship’s auto-repair systems are attending to them. But he also warns that minute particles of the fluid are continuing to cling to the hull. Still, the danger appears to be over. A short time later, the Liberator arrives at the designated coordinates, and scanning the area, the crew discovers Terminal, a weird egg-shaped world. Terminal was an artificial planet created 411 years ago as a laboratory to investigate evolution. But it was supposedly destroyed long ago, and wasn’t situated in the area of space where it now resides. Regardless, Zen indicates that the ship is receiving the expected signal from Terminal. Avon asks Tarrant to assemble the others in the teleport room and he’ll tell them what they need to know.

In the teleport room, Avon tells the others that he will check in every hour, and that if he misses one such call, they should leave the area immediately. He’s also pre-programmed Zen to fly the Liberator away from terminal in twelve hours regardless. The rest of the crew try to prevail upon Avon to let them help him, using tactics ranging from brotherly to logical, but this just leads Avon to utter one of his more well-remembered lines: “Sentiment breeds weakness. Let it get ahold of you, and you are dead.” Which is funny considering just what Avon is actually doing here, and what he’s driven by. As he steps into the teleport, he pointedly tells the others: “I don’t need any of you. I needed the Liberator to bring me here, so I had no choice but to bring you along. But this is as far as you go. I don’t want you with me. I don’t want you following me. Understand this: anyone who does follow me, I’ll kill them.”

It takes Tarrant all of about two seconds to decide to follow after Avon, and Cally joins him. The pair teleport down close to Avon’s position. The trio makes their way separately through the woods, with Avon’s progress observed by clandestine spotters who seem satisfied that he is complying with the instructions that he’s been given. Tarrant and Cally lose Avon but pick up the trail of the two spotters instead. Meanwhile on board the Liberator, Vila has noticed an enormous energy drain. When he and Dayna ask Zen about it, the computer tells them that the ship’s auto-repair systems are working at highest capacity and that the damage exceeds their rectification capability. But when questioned, Zen cannot identify the damage to the ship–and even his speech translator momentarily malfunctions. As Dayna and Vila look around the ship, they see a strange substance oozing into the Liberator throughout the vessel, eating away at the craft.

Avon follows a directional beacon to the entrance to an underground facility, which he enters, observing it to seemingly be a medical facility. The two spotters are close behind him, but they’re attacked by the feral Link creatures that are indigenous to Terminal and killed. Tarrant and Cally remain under cover rather than render assistance. Exploring the facility, Avon comes across one of the Liberator’s teleport bracelets, and a log entry gives an update on the condition of the patient: “So he is alive.” Avon mutters. “Blake is alive.” But before he can put that information to any use, he is struck by a tranquilizing dart and falls to the floor unconscious. Back on board the Liberator, the decay is spreading, and Vila has Zen divert all remaining resources to investigating the phenomenon and coming up with a solution. Cally and Tarrant follow Avon’s path down into the underground shaft after first having a perfunctory fight with a few of the Links.

Avon has been placed in a computerized device, and moments later he finds himself waking up elsewhere in the complex. He makes his way through the compound until he finds the chamber in which Blake is being treated. And there is Gareth Thomas, sporting the beard he had grown to do Shakespeare. “Well, you certainly took your time finding me.“he says. Avon wants to know about the discovery Blake promised in his messages that would make them rich and invincible, but Blake tells him that he is too injured to survive transport–he needs the life support machinery he is hooked up to in order to stay alive. A beep signals the time for Blake’s next treatment, and so Avon withdraws so as to not be caught by the base personnel. But he is caught, and gets clubbed into unconsciousness in the hallway by one of the guards. As he passes out, we see that Avon is still under the machine from earlier, and a voice offscreen tells her subordinates to get Avon out of there. “We must keep the continuity right.

Avon is dragged back out to the hall we just saw him struck down in and given a shot which awakens him. He’s brought in to see the base’s commander, who of course turns out to be Servalan. This whole production is her show. And she makes her pitch to Avon: “You get Blake, and whatever it is he’s discovered. And I get the Liberator.” But she might not want it if she knew what was happening on board. Dayna is finally able to get through to Tarrant and Cally as they make their way through the base, and she tells them that the ship is already crippled beyond repair, and it’s only a matter of time before it disintegrates. On board the flight deck, we get one of the saddest moments in the series, as a decaying Zen tells Vila that he is concentrating all remaining resources into maintaining the teleport system so that they can get off the ship safely. “I…I..have failed you. I have failed you. I am sorry.” It’s the first time Zen ever refers to himself in the first person. And then, his screen goes out permanently.

Back on the surface, Servalan forces Avon to contact the Liberator to consummate their deal. She comments that she knew that he would never let Blake die. “Death is something that he and I faced together on a number of occasions. I always thought that his death and mine might be linked in some way.” he says–a prophetic line, given what would happen at the end. But much to Servalan’s surprise, when Avon is able to get through to the Liberator, before Vila can tell him what’s been going on, Avon yells at him to take the ship and get out of there. In her anger, Servalan clubs Avon to the ground–but her mood changes instantly when her guards bring in Tarrant and Cally, whom they’ve captured out in the base. Now all the cards seem to belong to her.

With no other options open to them, Vila teleports Dayna to the surface, and the ground-bound crew members are stripped of their teleport bracelets. But Servalan has one last knife to twist. As she and her men prepare to teleport up to the Liberator, she tells Avon that Blake is dead. “He died from his wounds on the planet Jevron more than a year ago. I saw his body, I saw it cremated. Blake is dead.” This too is a line that takes on additional meanings given what will transpire in the next series. But for now, it’s as if something fragile shatters within Avon. Paul Darrow plays this moment to perfection–and you can see that for all of his denials of sentiment or seeming avarice for Blake’s mysterious discovery, it was Blake himself that was all Avon had been interested in finding. What he experienced earlier was an elaborate fabrication, a technological illusion that her technicians were able to create in Avon’s mind to convince him that Blake was here.”And you were my greatest ally, Avon” Servalan taunts him. “You made it easy because you wanted to believe it. You wanted to believe that Blake was still alive.”

Servalan and her men teleport up to the Liberator and prepare to send Vila back down. But he has the presence of mind to grab ORAC as he goes, telling them that it’s a sculpture that he made that has sentimental value to him. He also gets in one parting shot of his own on the way out:” Incidentally, you should always be careful about getting a second-hand spacecraft. They can be very unreliable.“Down on the surface, Avon is inconsolable: “She won. We–I let her take the Liberator.” But Tarrant corrects Avon, “No. No, she didn’t win. We all came out losers.” And the crew watches on the screen as Servalan tries to take the Liberator out of its stationary orbit, and the ship breaks up, fragmenting before exploding into a million pieces. The production crew went all-out in this sequence, destroying the actual sets figuring they;d never need them again. And as the dust settles, one by one the crew turns and walks away from the viewscreen, Avon last with his trademark cold smile. And that was how BLAKE’S 7 ended…except it wasn’t.

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