Weapon

Written by:
Chris Boucher
Directed by: George Spenton-Foster
Episode Length: 51’41
Original UK Transmission Date: 23/1/1979
Original UK Ratings: 6.4m
Original UK Chart Position: 108

DVD Availability: Try sendit.com or Amazon

Starring: Gareth Thomas (Blake), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Paul Darrow (Avon), Jan Chappell (Cally), Michael Keating (Vila), David Jackson (Gan) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Zen).

Guest-Starring: Brian Croucher (Travis), Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Kathleen Byron (Fen), John Bennett (Coser), Scott Fredericks (Carnell), Candace Glendenning (Rashel) and Graham Simpson (Officer).

Crew: Michael Brayshaw (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Mat Irvine/Peter Pegrum (Visual Effects Designers), Peter Chapman (Film Cameraman), Ian Sansam (Film Recordist), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Clive Gifford (Studio Sound), Richard Yeoman-Clark (Special Sound), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), June Hudson (Costume Designer), Marianne Ford (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Mike Porter (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia:
This was the episode with the lowest chart position on original UK transmission.

It’s well known that director George Spenton-Foster took a personal dislike to Brian Croucher, here debuting as Travis. Rather unfortunate for Brian, as half of his eight episodes had Spenton-Foster helming.

Chris Boucher reviewed this episode for its second video release in the November 1998 issue of SFX Magazine. SFX #44 still carried the letter ratings (A being excellent, down to D for awful) and gave Weapon a D to Shadow’s A (Overall tape rating B). Remarking on the director/Brian situation he noted that “Foster hated one cast member, and left him swinging in the wind.” Other comments from Chris on the production of his own script included “It wasn’t even a very talented director who turned “Weapon” into a second-rate pantomime”; and “a strike was pending, and, stubbornly determined to finish the episode before it hit, he made the show in half the time normally allocated.”

Story: Cally has suggested to Blake that they attack the Federation Weapons Development Base (A Triple-A security base) in order to gain weapons for a future Earth attack. Meanwhile, Beta Class Weapons Technician Coser has fled from the base with his invention prototype of IMIPAK and Rashel, a labour grade slave. They land on an unnamed planet and destroy their ship in order to cover their tracks.
Using a clone of Blake (Taken not from his cells, but from his DNA Identity Profile, with some identity and grown as an adult) Servalan infiltrates Coser’s base and gets him to hand IMIPAK over to the cloned Blake. After gaining control of the device, Servalan waits for Blake (whom she is aware is monitoring her communications using Orac) and marks him, Avon and Gan with the weapon. However, Servalan and her contracted Psychostrategist Carnell had failed to take into account Rashel, who marks both Servalan and Travis and threatens to trigger the mark if anyone comes looking for them.

Cloning: Federation scientists publicly gave up cloning centuries ago, as it was inefficient and tended towards genetic stagnation. In reality, they gave their work over to the Clone Masters to perfect.

IMIPAK: Standing for Induced Molecular Instability Projector And Key, IMIPAK allows its user to “mark” a victim by using a special gun. A handbox can then be pressed at any time to activate the mark (triggering unstable molecules) and kill the victim, with a range up to a million miles. Coser destroyed all recorded data about IMIPAK, stole the prototype and killed everyone associated with the project.

Blake: The cloned Blake, though five hours old, gives his age as “thirty-four”. As he has “the beginnings of identity” though not Blake’s memories, we can assume that the real Blake is the same age also. Finally, it’s implied that the assigned grades relate to intelligence, which raises interesting points about Blake (A Grade) and Vila (D Grade).

Servalan/Travis: Servalan marks Travis with IMIPAK when his back is turned to her. She also references a “slave pit on Ursa Prime” as a threat to him. Travis, meanwhile, has been visiting a “retraining therapist”.


Viewpoint:
“It’s still alive!”
“I haven’t told it it’s dead yet.”


This episode isn’t a particularly popular one, even with its own writer, yet I really quite like it. Hearing all the negative things said about it makes me doubt my judgement - is Foster’s direction that bad? And the number of double-acts really keeps things moving: Coser and Rashel, Blake and Avon… while Servalan and Psychostrategist Carnell is a standout relationship. The Liberator crew hate each other more than ever, and Brian Croucher makes for an engaging take on Travis.

Okay, the Clone Masters and their silly angelic music are too fey and fantasy-based to really work in the series, and that claw is pretty feeble. And is it just me or does Orac sometimes sound like Basil Brush? I keep expecting him to say “Yes, Mr. Derek.” But if that’s the level of criticism then it’s very little. Okay, Chris Boucher probably came up with the name IMIPAK before he worked out what the initials stood for, but so what? It’s all saved by Servalan’s obvious delight in making potential victims. (Some might like to point out that the marked Travis was in range when she uses it to kill the guard, but maybe it has different settings?)

The final Boucher trademark plot twists keep things moving in the right direction, and overall I find this one to be completely undeserving of its reputation.