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Starring: Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila), Steven Pacey (Tarrant), Josette Simon (Dayna) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Slave).
Guest-Starring: Glynis Barber (Soolin), Geoffrey Burridge (Dorian), Rob Middleton (The Creature) and Jan Chappell (Cally, voice only).
Crew: Stuart Fell (Stunt Co-ordinator), Ralph Wilton (Production Manager), Frank Pendlebury (Production Associate), Valerie Turner (Production Assistant), Josephine Ward (Assistant Floor Manager), Fintan Sheehan (Film Cameraman), John Tellick (Film Sound), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Jim Francis/Andy Lazell (Visual Effects Designers), Francis Smith (Properties Buyer), Robin Lobb (Video Effects), Sam Upton (Videotape Editor), Doug Burd (Graphic Designer), Dave Hare (Technical Manager), Dave White (Senior Cameraman), Nigel Finnis (Vision Mixer), Warwick Fielding (Studio Lighting), Malcolm Johnson (Studio Sound), Elizabeth Parker (Special Sound), Nicholas Rocker (Costume Designer), Suzanne Jansen (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Roger Cann (Designer) and Vere Lorrimer (Producer).
Trivia: A novel by Trevor Hoyle titled Scorpio Attack was released, using elements from this episode, as well as Traitor and Stardrive.
Jan Chappell recorded two words of dialogue for the episode: "Vila" and "Blake!"
Story: Servalan has rigged her ship and the inner workings of Terminal to explode. Vila drags Tarrant to safety, but Cally is killed in the explosion, telepathically calling out to him and Blake as she dies. Avon later confirms her body was dead as he had to go back to retrieve a battered Orac.
A man named Dorian arrives on the planet claiming to be a salvage operator, and the crew take over his Wanderer Class Mark Two ship, Scorpio. The ship also has its own onboard computer, known as Slave, and is bound for the planet Xenon, where Dorian has his base. It soon emerges that Dorian has sought them out purposely with the intent of capturing them. He introduces them to his partner, Soolin, and fixes Orac. However, when his identity is questioned he orders them at gunpoint down to his cellar, where a creature exists who feeds on sin and keeps him young. Dorian has had nearly 200 years of study, having known Orac's creator, Ensor; he created Slave and also modified all the caves to his own design. It emerges that Dorian wants the crew to take his place as a hybrid, "bound together by time and pain and the need to survive." However, Avon kills the creature, and it reverts back to Dorian's original partner, while Dorian himself ages to dust.
Cally: Avon claims that Cally once told him "He who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken."
Soolin: Soolin is introduced, a fast draw who killed "one of the men responsible for the death of her family."
The Federation: The planet Xenon, we are informed by Tarrant, was outside of the Federation's territory even when it was at its full power. He remarks that it is "well outside, now their Empire's contracted."
Equipment: Dayna finds Dorian's stash of weaponry, with handguns that have magazines for lasers, plasma bolts, percussion, micro grenades and stun.
"You think I'm insane, don't you?"
"It had occurred to me."
A brand-new season with a new producer and a totally revamped title sequence and logo. In many ways they both just about say it all about the season. Vere Lorrimer was a much better producer than he's given credit for, and, on a further decreased budget, he achieved much. The Quantelled spaceships (okay you can frequently see the matte lines, but then you could in Star Wars, too) look better than models on string, and the title sequence is much more professional and adult-looking than that of the first three seasons. Sadly, however, it's also the most unimaginative, something systematic of the season as a whole: it looks okay, but there's a definite lack of ideas. Meanwhile, Dudley Simpson's atrocious rejigged end titles theme sounds like the unrepressed flatulence of Ronnie Hazelhurst.
With just under eighteen months between the screening of this and Terminal then viewers probably wouldn't remember that Terminal wasn't covered in snow, though lots may have recalled that it was an oval planet (you don't get many of those, do you?) with bright blue seas and continents. Presumably there's some intended reason as to why it's now spherical and faceless grey? Fashion-wise then everything else is pretty much the same, though Vila's had a trim and Avon's ultrabasin is now a coiffeured quiff. It hasn't aged well. (Odd that Cally's dying word should be "Blake"… what does that say about her psychology? Why not Avon?)
It's less than three minutes in before we see a pathetic snake-like creature: six minutes and we get new computer Slave, a crass comedy computer that looks like something out of Terrahawks and sounds like Parker from Thunderbirds. The stock footage of volcanic eruptions don't bode well either, and, unusually for a Boucher script, not only is the dialogue hackneyed but it positively stinks.
Chris can write a mean season climax, as Star One or this season's Blake would prove. Yet season openers are far more difficult, an area where Terry Nation is ironically more adept. Like the previous two openers, everything is too convenient. It's often been remarked upon that it would have been better had the crew battled for their survival for a few more episodes. Instead, eleven minutes in and they're on a new ship, complete with computer and (not yet working) teleport. They even end the episode with the promise of a new female companion to replace Cally, the characterless Soolin. Soolin (she got a big ass!) completes the trio of crew contrivances, a fast gunslinger to go with the first-class pilot and the weapons expert. Note how completely out of character Dayna is this episode, constantly screaming and asking for help. Anyone'd think Terry Nation or Ben Steed had written the script.
The shots of Scorpio landing are excellent, the best-ever model work for the series, though the plot - Burridge as a Dorian Gray rip-off with a Sea Devil spray-painted black in his cellar (yes, really) - is poor. Avon has more murderous impulses this episode and less of a moral conscience - a result of learning of the deaths of Blake and Cally? In fairness, the BBC made the surprise decision of a fourth series late in the day, explaining why the scripts in the second half are vastly superior to those in the first. This opening episode doesn't inspire confidence in the new season…