Best of Blake’s 7 – Blake

S04EP13 – The final episode of BLAKE’S 7 aired on December 21, 1981. As announced over the closing credits of TERMINAL, the show did come back for another season, and with a bit of a style overhaul. These were the post-Star Wars days, and BLAKE’S 7 up until now had been drawing its sci-fi influences mainly from Star Trek, so this opportunity was taken to change things up. This started with an all-new title sequence, glimpsed at the start of this piece, which tried really hard to be gritty and futuristic in that lived-in Star Wars manner, but which was really sort of dull, betrayed in part by the far smaller budget that the BBC was working with to mount the show.

Other changes included the introduction of a new starship for the former Blake crew: Scorpio. it took its lines from the kinds of ships that populated the Star Wars universe, and it had a new onboard personality, the humble Slave. But as opposed to the Liberator, Scorpio was a piece of junk, really. More plausible, maybe, but far less interesting. Eventually, mid-season, it got fitted with an experimental drive that made it faster than just about any other ship, but if it had any weapons or offensive capabilities, we never saw them. It did have a Liberator-style teleport system, though, as that was just too handy from a storytelling point of view to do without. Also, Cally was killed (off-screen for the most part–we only see her hand as actress Jan Chappell didn’t come back for this one shot) and replaced in the crew by Soolin, a supposed gunslinger and bounty hunter who was intended to be a kick-ass woman, but who most often stood around not contributing much of anything to the stories. Servalan had survived the destruction of the Liberator as well, but her power base had been broken, and so she was forced to work her way back up under the cover identity of Commissioner Sleer.

In addition, in this final series, Avon became more serious and devoted to the proposition of bringing down the Federation. It was them or him, he figured. Accordingly, the crew began working out of a salvaged hidden base on the planet Xenon, using it as a hub for their activities. But in the episode immediately prior to this one, an attempt by Avon to bring together several different space Warlords into an Anti-Federation coalition went awry, and now the location of the base might be known to the Federation. Accordingly, this final episode begins with the typical launch sequence of Scorpio from the Xenon base, followed by the base’s self-destruction.

In the aftermath, the Scorpio crew discusses their next move. “We know what we’ve got planned“, opines Vila, “Running away is what we’ve got planned.” Avon, though, thinks they can do better. “Does that mean safer?” asks Vila, and in response, Avon gives one of his more memorable lines: “In the end, winning is the only safety.” Avon hasn’t given up on his plan to unify and expand the rebel alliance (yes, he uses that term specifically) if they can just find the right figurehead for their movement. And he thinks he knows where the right man can be found. “He is strongly identified with rebels, you see. And very popular with rabble. They will follow him, and he will fight–to the last drop of their blood. Idealism is a wonderful thing, all you need is someone rational to put it to proper use.”Avon tells the others that the man they need is on the planet Gauda Prime, which is Soolin’s homeworld–a lawless world deep out on the frontier. And it’s Vila who intuits who Avon is talking about and turns over the last card: “It’s Blake, isn’t it? You think you’ve found Blake.

And indeed, the episode doesn’t spend any time messing around on this point. The scene immediately cuts to Gauda Prime where we find a much weathered and scarred Blake making camp in a wooded area. He offers to share his food with the young woman who has been stalking him, and she comes out into view. They parley, with Blake trying to make sure that she isn’t a Federation and her asking him if she looks like one. “I can‘t really tell anymore“, he admits.. Back on Scorpio, Dayna mentions the fact that Servalan had told them that Blake was dead, and Avon responds that she didn’t need a reason to lie to them. Avon activates ORAC and orders him to tell the crew why they believe that Blake is on Gauda Prime. ORAC says a bunch of nonsense that really doesn’t add up to very much about tracing one line through the pattern of infinity–largely because there really isn’t any proof that they can have, but they need the crew to go along on this fool’s errand.

The crew has been down this path before, and Cally paid for it with her life, a fact that Vila doesn’t let go by. More critically, Tarrant probes how long Avon has been aware of Blake’s whereabouts and confirms that he Avon would have been content to leave Blake be had their earlier coalition plans borne fruit. And so, loosely aligned on the point, Scorpio sets a course for Gauda Prime. Cutting ahead of the ship, Blake and the girl, who identifies herself as Arlen, finish up their meal. She’s being tracked by bounty hunters, though, and three of them fall upon her and Blake. They fight their way out but Arlen is wounded–and that’s when Blake reveals that he’s been hunting her for the bounty as well. He’d prefer to take her in alive, but the price for her dead isn’t bad either, and he’s not a greedy man. At this moment, the question really is what has happened to Blake since we saw him last to turn him into this?

As Scorpio approaches the area of Gauda Prime, it is set upon by interceptors. As I mentioned earlier, there is no evidence in any of the fourth season episodes that Scorpio possessed any offensive weapons capabilities at all, so it’s blasted to heck by the attackers. In an attempt to shake off pursuit, Avon has Tarrant take the ship into a power dive towards the planet, an attempt at faking being out of control that almost immediately turns into the real thing, as the ship doesn’t have enough working systems remaining to halt its fall or to land safely.

With all other options closed off, all the crew can do is abandon ship. Vila, Dayna and Soolin teleport off first–but Tarrant cannot leave the controls. It’s only his skill as a pilot that is preventing Scorpio from breaking up as it falls through the atmosphere. With more regret than we’re used to seeing from him, Avon scoops up ORAC and teleports himself to the planet below, leaving Tarrant to his fate. The production budget doesn’t really allow for the show to do the sort of spectacular crash that it clearly wants to execute here, but through some judicious editing and making do with what they have to work with, the episode gets the point across. Tarrant guides the ship into a crash landing that all but obliterates it, and his body falls into the wreckage of the control room.

Meanwhile, Blake has turned his bounty over to Deva, who appears to be heading up the movement to re-establish law on Gauda Prime. Deva is notified that a ship was shot down while attempting to run the planetary blockade and Blake tells him that he may swing by and check things out. Out in the wilderness, Avon has ORAC send out a fake distress signal with the intention of luring people and ships to his position, where me can take advantage of them. And the rest of the crew has holed up in an abandoned barn for the night, leaving Vila on watch. But drowsy Vila almost gets them all killed, and it’s only the watching Avon who gets the jump on their bounty hunter attacker. He tells the rest that they have inherited a flier. But Vila wants to know, if Avon and ORAC made it off of Scorpio together, what happened to Tarrant?

Out at the wreckage of Scorpio, Tarrant lies injured in the hulk, with only Slave’s last few flickers of power to keep him company. A ship manned by gunrunners opens fire, almost killing Tarrant–but they’re not aiming at him, they’re trying to kill Blake, who has made his way into Scorpio as well. Leaping out from concealment, Blake puts several shots into the underside of the gunrunner’s ship, causing it to crash and explode. He then turns his attentions to Tarrant. The two men converse, neither one willing to give up any information about their own identity. Blake tests Tarrant by leaving a gun near to him and tossing him the gems that he got from his last bounty, but Tarrant tells him that he’s being a bit obvious. Blake helps Tarrant back to his flier, intending to take him back to Deva and the base–and unaware that ORAC has detected his flier and, not knowing who is piloting it, is using it as a guide for the others to follow to civilization.

As they fly back to base, Tarrant comments that they would make better time if they stuck to a straight line, rather than the random changes of direction Blake seems to be employing to try to confuse his sense of direction. Blake tells Tarrant that it’s an old smuggler’s trick, and he drops Jenna’s name to see what Tarrant’s reaction will be. The name clearly registers on Tarrant, but he says nothing, and Blake goes on to tell him how Jenna was killed running the same blockade Scorpio just passed through. As their ship enters the base, the flier operated by the Scorpio crew follows, with ORAC duplicating the entry codes.

As Blake and Tarrant enter Deva’s office, Blake snatches Tarrant’s gun off of him. He tells Deva that Tarrant has a particularly large Federation bounty on his head, as do his friends who have followed them here. Tarrant is stunned by this reversal. “What on Earth happened to you?” he asks Blake.” Oh, most of it wasn’t on Earth, Tarrant”, replies Blake, “Not what happened to me..” Arlen comes in and joins them, and her arrival gives Tarrant the chance to kick the gun out of Blake’s hand and to race from the room. Blake stops Arlen from killing Tarrant as the rebel retreats, telling her, “When he knows as much about this as you do now, he’ll join us, like you did.” And suddenly, his bearing and demeanor changes, and he’s the old Blake again. It seems that Blake’s guise as a bounty hunter is just a cover, through which he can recruit people into his rebel cell. Deva chides Blake for playing stupid games, but Blake tells him that it’s the only way he can be sure about the people he recruits, the only way he can test them and know–he finds it difficult to trust. Arlen points out that they should probably do something about Tarrant. But now the stage is set for the most memorable sequence in BLAKE’S 7 history.

The Scorpio crew intercept Tarrant as the latter is fighting his way out of the base. “I’m glad you made it“, remarks Avon, in another uncharacteristic display of sentiment. Tarrant goes on to tell Avon that he thinks Blake is here. As one of the technicians attempts to call for security, Avon guns her down–largely to show clearly that the weapon he is using is lethal. (This scene has another layer of meaning as well, as the technician is played by actor Paul Darrow’s wife.) And then, after two seasons apart, Blake steps into the room, and stands facing Avon.

He sold us, Avon“, Tarrant tells Avon, “All of us. Even you.” Avon cannot believe what he is hearing, and his mask of cold emotionlessness drops utterly as he confronts a protesting Blake. “Is it true? Have you betrayed us? Have you…betrayed me?“Blake tries to reach out to his old friend, saying that he had been waiting for Avon–and as Blake moves forward towards him, Avon reflexively fires, again and again, peppering Blake with bullets until he sags to the floor. Avon stands over Blake’s dead body in shock. No fooling around, no tricks, no reversals here. Blake is dead, finally–and Avon is the one who has killed him.

But the bad news isn’t over yet. Arlen guns down Deva and then orders the Scorpio crew to drop their weapons. It turns out that she is an undercover Federation officer sent to infiltrate Blake’s group. “Your friend Blake said he couldn’t tell anymore who was Federation and who wasn’t. He was right. He couldn’t.” Vila rushes forward, using his typical cowardly patter to plead for his life. While he does so, Dayna makes a grab for her weapon–but Arlen is faster, and she coldly guns Dayna down.

In that moment, Vila has a momentary heroic impulse. He backhands Arlen, knocking her to the ground and picks up her weapon–just in time to get shot in the back by the Federation troops who are swarming the building. Soolin is able to shoot one down before she herself is felled by one of their shots.. And Tarrant is cut down as he attempts to reach Avon’s side. It is a bloodbath in seconds, with every death captured in slow motion to heighten the moment of impact. Throughout all of this, Avon has remained rigid in the center of the room, looming silently over Blake’s prone body.

As Avon stirs, he realizes that he is completely surrounded by Federation troops, who encircle him slowly, as though they are dealing with a panther. As they close the trap, Avon takes one step, straddling the body of Blake, who stares up at his with one dead eye. Slowly, so slowly, he begins to raise his weapon, and as he does so the camera shot cuts in on him tighter and tighter–until finally only his face fills the screen. In the last second, he breaks out into one of his trademark smiles–and the screen goes to black, with the sound of gunfire playing out as the end credits roll. It’s about as bleak an ending to a series as has ever been shot–literally every principle character dies in the end. But boy, was it a memorable finale, for all that the rest of the episode is just a little bit sluggish getting to those final five minutes.

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