Children of Auron

Written by:
Roger Parkes
Directed by: Andrew Morgan
Episode Length: 48'44
Original UK Transmission Date: 19/2/1980
Original UK Ratings: 10.4m
Original UK Chart Position: 25

DVD Availability: Try
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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: Jan Chappell (Zelda), Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Sarah Atkinson (Franton), Rio Fanning (Deral), Ric Young (Ginka), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (C.A. One), Beth Harris (C.A. Two), John McKenzie (Patar) and Michael Troughton (Pilot Four-Zero).

Crew: Roselyn Parker (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Shuna Young (Director's Assistant), Jenny Osborn (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), Peter Granger (Technical Manager), David White (Senior Cameraman), 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), Ray London/Gerry Scott (Designers) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia: Look out for a goof when Rio Fanning enters Servalan's main ship room, 1'08m into the episode. His head and shoulder can be seen through the bottom left of her "viewscreen".

Story: The Liberator is on course for Earth so Avon can exact revenge on Anna Grant's murderer, a Federation officer known as "Shrinker". (This follows on from events mentioned in season two's Countdown. Is this why Avon wanted Blake out of the way, so he could use the Liberator for personal vendettas? He ends that episode telling Blake about Anna: "You wouldn't understand.") However, their course is diverted when Cally receives a distress call from her identical sibling, Zelda, and they head for Auron, where an epidemic has broken out.
Realising the strategic importance of Auron, Servalan uses it in her plan to rebuild the fragmented Federation. So they won't be able to detect her plans using their mental powers, she spreads the epidemic of alien pathogens. As Auron hasn't had disease for over three decades, they have no immunity to such a virus. While there, Servalan also uses Auron's bioreplication plant with synthesised placenta units (created by Clariton Franton) to reproduce.
However, tricked by one of her over-eager henchman, Ginka, who tells her that the embryos were replaced anyway, she orders the bombing of the plant with the embryos inside. The Liberator crew teleport to safety (though Zelda is killed after staying behind to correct the nutrient cell balance) and Servalan feels the death of her embryos. The Liberator sets course 03K20 for Karn, an uninhabited Earth-type planet where the remaining potential 5000 Aurons might breed.

Cally: Cally talks of Saurian Major, where she was first discovered in Time Squad, and reveals she was defending it from the Federation and was exiled from Auron as a result. After much cruel teasing from Avon, she reveals the exile is why she has never returned, and, indicating Avon, cries: "why do you imagine I've never gone back? Affection for him?" However, there does seem to be conflict in the way she says this sentence. There also seems to be some contradiction in this episode, as the powers of the Auronar are greater than Cally's, (Servalan hints they can read minds as well as project thoughts) and can be inhibited by a ionic beam. However, this could be due to their close proximity and shared consciousness.

The Federation: Servalan talks of "the untimely destruction of the clone masters." The clone masters (seen in Weapon) were identified as an irritation to Servalan. Is she hinting they were wiped out in the galactic war, or that she has personally disposed of them?

"They were mine. I felt them die."

Season three experimented more widely with single character based stories. Tarrant got his own in Death-Watch, while this is the second in a trilogy of essentially solo tales. Bookended by Vila and Avon stories, this is ostensibly a Cally script, but is really a close character study of Servalan. Okay, with nine episodes she was perhaps overused in season three, but this is the only one to give her real depth. Jacqueline Pearce is a revelation this episode and gives almost certainly her best performance. See how wonderful she can be when she plays it straight? Pearce said the death of Servalan's embryos felt like a real miscarriage to her, so from this point on she wore black as a sign of mourning.

For a "double" story then this is actually pretty well done, the Jan Chappell dual role thankfully not overplayed or used for novelty. Interesting also to see an Asian actor in the series, a rare sighting. Mind you, he is a sadistic, murderous scientist specialising in germ warfare. (See also: Cally - woman, compassionate; Dayna - black woman, interest in explosives). However, the notion of Ginka being passed over for promotion in favour of a white officer is an interesting social comment. But did Dudley Simpson have to add on a Bruce Lee-style cymbal crash when Ginka reveals his face?

For Roger Parkes, the man who gave us a French Travis and a high-chasing robot, then this is an amazingly layered episode. Goofs-wise, then when Dayna and the Auron move off from the teleport control panel (34'06m) then it wobbles. And why wouldn't Servalan question where Dayna was? Still, these are minor quibbles, and as this is only the second episode I ever saw then I hold some affection for it. On the other hand, maybe it's genuinely a really good episode. It's certainly well made and has nice direction from one-time Blake director Andrew Morgan, along with some unusual and effective location work. I almost gave it full marks to be honest with you. A thoughtful episode with a great deal of insight - just a shame they had to end the story laughing heartily at a joke on the bridge.