City at the Edge of the World

Written by:
Chris Boucher
Directed by: Vere Lorrimer
Episode Length: 51'28
Original UK Transmission Date: 11/2/1980
Original UK Ratings: 8.8m
Original UK Chart Position: 36

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

Guest-Starring: Carol Hawkins (Kerril), Colin Baker (Bayban), Valentine Dyall (Norl) and John J. Carney (Sherm).

Crew: Stuart Fell (Stunt Co-Ordinator), John Harris (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Christine Fawcett (Director's Assistant), Riita Lynn (Assistant Floor Manager), Peter Chapman (Film Cameraman), Ian Sansom (Film Recordist), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Steve Drewett/Jim Francis (Visual Effects Designers), Doug Burd (Graphic Designer), Dave White (Senior Cameraman), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), Paul del Bravo (Vision Mixer), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Malcolm Johnson (Studio Sound), Elizabeth Parker (Special Sound), Dee Robson (Costume Designer), Sheelagh J. Wells (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Don Taylor/Gerry Scott (Designers) and David Maloney (Producer).

Story: Tarrant has negotiated with the people of the planet Gazarn for some crystals in return for weapons. The Liberator crew plan to use the crystals to power the ship's weaponry systems, yet when Vila teleports down to the planet he is captured by Bayban the Butcher, the Federation's most wanted criminal, second only to Blake.
It emerges that the indigenous populace once sent off their genetically engineered race memory in a star craft to find a new world. Beyond a door on Gazarn is a terminal which will allow for instaneous transmission of matter over the 3000 light year distance between the planet and the starcraft. Not being able to open the doorway, the populace have recruited Bayban. They don't believe he can open the door either, but believe he can find someone who can.
Bayban tricked Tarrant into believing he had a plentiful supply of crystals and specified that Vila should come down unarmed and alone. When he does so, Bayban captures him and makes him open the doorway. While through the passageway, Vila falls in love with one of Bayban's underlings, Kerril, telling her "I like you. More than anyone I've ever known." However, realising that being a thief "is not what I am. It's who I am" Vila elects to return to the Liberator.

Dayna: Dayna has devised a heat-seeking mobile bomb that can be detonated by remote control.

Tarrant: The underlying tensions between Tarrant and the crew come to the fore after he threatens Vila to make him visit a planet with "I could dump you any time, the others wouldn't stop me and you couldn't, could you?" Avon, guessing what was said, tells Tarrant to "leave him alone in future." The reply comes back "or?" followed by: "Do you want me to threaten you?" "Why not? I haven't had a good laugh in ages." "Sensible. You could die laughing."
After Cally notes that Vila was so scared he could get himself killed, Tarrant says "I'll take that risk", to be met with Cally snapping back "it's not yours to take." Perhaps most interesting is when Tarrant retracts his behaviour. Although the sentence is said to Avon, he only gives the accusative first half in his direction, addressing the actual apology segment to Cally: "You were right. I was wrong. I'm sorry Cally." When Vila returns to the ship, he also apologises to him and claims he didn't mean what he said.

Avon: After defending Vila rigorously throughout the episode, Avon claims to despise him and also comments that "He's irritating but he's useful. We can easily replace a pilot. But a talented thief is rare." Some might claim that this is Avon covering up his feelings for Vila, but then we also have the events of season four's Orbit to take into consideration. Perhaps only Avon really knows how he feels…


Viewpoint:
"I'll get you for this, Tarrant! I'll tear your arm off and beat you to death with the wet end!"

The one that should be subtitled "how did Chris think he could get away with it?" Thirteen years after Star Trek produced its most famous episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, Blake's 7 came up with this not dissimilarly named adventure. When you learn that it's about an extradimensional doorway that leads to a love Vila can't hold onto, then you can see piss-taking season was in.

As well as script-editing all 52 episodes, Chris Boucher wrote nine scripts, with only the weak Rescue really disrupting his run of crackers. Chris really understands the crew dynamic, and it's fair to say they've probably never hated each other as much as at the start of this one.

Guest-star of the week is Colin Baker (younger, with an earring and looking - to my eyes anyway - slightly like Reece Dinsdale) as Bayban the Butcher. He's theatrical but likeable, and I personally enjoy his performance here. Though obviously his line "Do you think I'm a complete amateur?" is just asking for trouble.

As he's my favourite character then a Vila episode is a dream come true for me. Sadly, this isn't Michael Keating's finest hour, as he plays all of it without sincerity. He's great on the funny lines, unconvincing on the romantic ones. We know he's capable of better, but the comedy is a little too forced, the lines a tad too self-conscious. The "planet" on which he and Kerril find themselves on is just as artificial. Strangely, for one of just four episodes to be released under a U certificate (the tapes Volcano/Dawn and Harvest/City getting the "suitable for all" classification from the BBFC) this is the only B7 episode to feature (off screen) sex. Tarrant getting his end away in Warlord is debatable. Carol Hawkins also perhaps lacks the necessary gravitas to pull off the love requirements.

This really is a decent episode, and nearly worthy of an extra mark. The beginning is brilliant, yet for the episode as a whole then somehow it just doesn't quite come off.