Death-Watch

Written by:
Chris Boucher
Directed by: Gerald Blake
Episode Length: 51'02
Original UK Transmission Date: 24/3/1980
Original UK Ratings: 8.9m
Original UK Chart Position: 29

DVD Availability: Try sendit.com
DVD Availability: Not yet released - check back later for pre-order details

Starring: Paul Darrow (Avon), Jan Chappell (Cally), Michael Keating (Vila), Steven Pacey (Tarrant), Josette Simon (Dayna) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Zen).

Guest-Starring: Steven Pacey (Deeta), Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Mark Elliott (Vinni), Stewart Bevan (Max), David Sibley (Commentator) and Katherine Iddon (Karla).

Crew: Stuart Fell (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Ann Faggetter (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Christine Fawcett (Director's Assistant), Riitta Lynn (Assistant Floor Manager), Peter Chapman (Film Cameraman), Ian Sansom (Film Recordist), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Steve Drewett/Jim Francis (Visual Effects Designers), A.J. Mitchell (Video Effects), Doug Burd (Graphic Designer), Peter Valentine (Technical Manager), Dave White (Senior Cameraman), Paul del Bravo (Vision Mixer), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Richard Partridge (Studio Sound), Elizabeth Parker (Special Sound), Nicholas Rocker (Costume Designer), Sheelagh J. Wells (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Ken Ledsham (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Story: The Liberator has been attacking Servalan's ore ships and has recently let four escape. In order to relax, they decide to watch a combat via the Viscast system. The United Planets of Teal and the Vandor Confederacy are at war, with the rules stating they must both send their first champion to fight. The loser's state has to surrender two-thirds of their fleet and three planets. As both systems border on the Federation, then Servalan is appointed a neutral arbiter.
However, Teal's champion of "nearly four years" is Tarrant's elder brother, Deeta. He is killed when the combatant sent in by Vandor is an android. Servalan intends to reveal this after the contest, thus throwing the two systems into physical war, and allowing the Federation to take over both as a "cleansing force." Determined to defeat her, Avon instructs Tarrant to take on the android as part of a "blood feud" so that he can destroy it before its non-human status can be determined.

Viscast: Viscast involves microsensors in the brains of combatants being boosted through a combat computer, which can then be experienced through the optic nerve of those watching with receivers.

Tarrant: Tarrant's elder brother, Deeta, left Earth "a long time ago", while Del left "more recently." What's most notable about this episode is the first real signs of Tarrant acknowledging Avon's rank on the ship, by barking out a command "Zen-" then stopping and seeking Avon's approval with a respectful "yes?"

Orac: Orac has broken the Federation's latest security code.


Viewpoint:
"It's not exactly thrilling but it's all there is."

Chris Boucher absolutely rocked in season two and had one bad 'un and one cracker in season four. In season three, save for the outstanding Rumours of Death, he was merely adequate.

In fairness, this one has an in-built flaw in that it's basically Steven Pacey dressed up as his own character's brother in a wig. Get past the credibility gap of that one and you're confronted with the most hideous costumes in the show's history, especially Avon's shoulder pads. Camp isn't the word. There is some humour to compensate for this, such as Boucher's cheeky digs at Star Trek ("Space… the final frontier - as it was once called.") and the group dynamic is good as always. Not only that, but the idea of Servalan letting the two empires crush each other then stepping in a "cleansing force" is stunningly political, perhaps more so today than ever.

However, it's disappointing to see Avon snogging Servalan again as it demeans both characters and rubbishes the quite sweet relationship between Avon and Cally. Not that Cally gets anything to do post-Sarcophagus anyway. I did smile at the fact that although the battle computers can select any setting from any world, they select an old disused building round the back of an old gas works. However, Gerald Blake's innovative direction (even shooting from inside Orac at one point) makes it all hang together, commendable in a series which specialised in adequate, not innovative, directorial touches. It's just a shame he didn't get better scripts as this, like The Harvest of Kairos, isn't really Blake's 7's finest hour.

A decent enough story, then, though one of the least essential.