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Starring: Gareth Thomas (Blake), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Paul Darrow (Avon), Jan Chappell (Cally), Michael Keating (Vila) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Zen).
Guest-Starring: Paul Daneman (Bellfriar), Ronald Lacey (Tynus), Colin Farrell (Gambrill), Colin Higgins (Tak), Michael Gaunt (Bax) and Morris Barry (Wiler).
Crew: Geoffrey Manton (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), Sally Hulke (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).
Trivia: The first of four Robert Holmes scripts used in the series, this is the only one of his B7 stories not to feature characters playing chess.
Story: Orbiting the planet Fosforon, Avon and Vila teleport down to Q Base, a radio-linked research station. There Avon meets up with an old friend, Commander Technician Tynus, whom Avon trained with, and covered up for when they were both involved in fraud. Avon calls in the favour by asking Tynus to give him a TP Crystal, which will allow the Liberator crew to decode the Federation’s A-Line messages on a new pulse code. The crystal runs the bands from C to Y and up to 3000 megahurtz. However, Tynus is a traitor and warns Servalan, so Avon has to kill him in order to take the crystal by force.
Meanwhile, Blake has detected a 700-year-old Wanderer Class One Ship known as the K47. It had three crewmen - Kemp, Mordin and Tober - and went missing in the vicinity of 61 Signae, an uncharted area of space. When Q Base study the craft’s deceased occupants, it releases a virus - organism 926 - that explodes the cells of those who have undergone space travel. Blake believes aliens in the uncharted area have deliberately infected the crew to ward off explorers from Earth. He places a plague warning transmitter around the planet and sets a course for the Constellation Saurus.
Vila: Vila is seen drinking again, notably when away from Blake. He also references a Desarus Swamp Fever which “killed millions.”
“One day that great big bleeding heart of his will get us all killed.”
Robert Holmes is something of a legend in Doctor Who circles, where he’s generally acknowledged as its finest, and most prolific, writer. Sadly, however, his work on Blake’s 7 was never quite as exceptional. That’s not to say it’s bad, though, and this tale with its quite graphic shots of animated corpses is probably the scariest.
The budgetary constraints on this one actually work for the episode in some respects. For the location shoot they use real CCTV cameras instead of the fake black and red ones. This shows the seeds of the Federation in today’s government. Less successful is the crushingly stagy exposition between Jenna, Blake and Orac, or the communication device made up of two calculators taped to the wall. Also woefully contrived is the scene where Vila discovers Tyrus’s message to Servalan after using it to dispose of explosive residue. Dire.
As with season four’s Orbit, this is a Holmes script that hangs its worth on one moral precept. Unlike Orbit, it doesn’t, in my opinion at least, come off, for one scene with Blake agonising over his scruples does not justify fifty minutes of fairly staid television.