Space Fall

Written by:
Terry Nation
Directed by: Pennant Roberts
Episode Length: 52'07
Original UK Transmission Date: 9/1/1978
Original UK Ratings: 7.3m
Original UK Chart Position: 73

DVD Availability: Try or Amazon

Starring: Gareth Thomas (Blake), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila) and David Jackson (Gan).

Guest-Starring: Glyn Owen (Leylan), Leslie Schofield (Raiker), Norman Tipton (Artix), David Hayward (Teague), Brett Forrest (Krell), Tom Kelly (Nova), Michael MacKenzie (Dainer) and Bill Weston (Garton).

Crew: Pauline Smithson (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Ken Willicombe (Film Cameraman), Bill Meekums (Film Recordist), M.A.C. Adams (Film Editor), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Tony Millier (Studio Sound), Barbara Lane (Costume Designer), Marianne Ford/Eileen Marr (Make Up Artists), Ian Scoones (Visual Effects Designer), Bob Blagden (Graphics Designer), Frank Maher (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Dudley Simpson (Music), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Roger Murray-Leach (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia: This episode was edited for all of its video releases. Approximately four seconds were cut where Avon gives a guard a double-handed blow at each side of his head, something the BBFC said would require an "18" certificate. Ironically, when the first four episodes were originally released onto video, edited together as one long story "The Beginning", the offending scene was left intact. The first unedited release for the episode occurred on DVD in February 2004, where it was given a PG certificate. The episode length when edited runs to 52'03 minutes.

Story: Captain Leylan, Sub-Commander Raiker and Officer Artix (who is studying for Captaincy) are the crew aboard the Civil Administration ship London. After ordering the highest level of suppressants in the prisoners' rations, Leylan takes the ship on an eight-month voyage to Cygnus Alpha. The ship has mess facilities, sleeping bays and a recreational area, while the Captain has the right to order execution of prisoners.
After an aborted take-over attempt by the prisoners, the Captain encounters an abandoned ship, possibly caught up in a "space battle". After sending officers aboard who don't come back, Leylan lets three prisoners - Blake, Jenna and Avon - explore it for them. They do so, killing Raiker in the process, and take over the new ship. (In Cygnus Alpha the ship is named as The Liberator, though goes unnamed here).

Avon: We are introduced to Kerr Avon, who it is implied has met Vila before. (Just as it's implied Vila has met Olag Gan before, whom we're also introduced to). Avon "came close to stealing five million credits out the Federation banking system" before being caught. We also learn that Avon has a brother.

Vila: Vila is shown to perform magic tricks, something he would do again in the episodes The Keeper and Sarcophagus.

"Don't try and manipulate me, Blake!"

Space Fall is often seen as being padded, and a stepping stone to the Liberator episodes, rather than a story in its own right. However, I really like it a lot. What helps is that it partly retains the grittiness of the first episode. "Molesting kids" is actually mentioned, a shockingly bold statement for a family show. The scenes showing the beating (and implied rape) of Jenna's mother at the hands of three Federation guards are also quite harrowing. Lastly on this theme we have the subsequently excised scene where Avon gives a guard a double-handed slap. That this girly handbag fest has to be edited to save the video releases getting an 18-certificate show the bizarre policies of the BBFC.

Also, of course, Space Fall is the one to introduce Avon, here played with some subtlety by Paul Darrow. Add to this a nice weary performance from Glyn Owen, a cheesy but fun psycho turn from Leslie Schofield and the introduction of The Liberator and you've got a smashing little episode. The model effects are also a lot better than you probably remember, too, and the Liberator interior is impressive. Somewhat a shame then that the final eight seconds of the episode see the budget run out and a cartoon of the Liberator take over. Yes, really. Couple this with Raiker on wires and a wobbly control panel and you might be forgiven for sniggering a little.

What's weird is that Michael Keating and David Jackson were given characters that were just plot device ciphers. David Jackson as Gan is just a strong man, there to get the others out of physical scrapes, while Vila is there, at best, to pick locks, and at any other time as comic relief. The fact that Vila is my favourite character says volumes about Michael Keating's performance.

Some of the dialogue here is a little corny from time to time (particularly Jenna's) but in the main this is an engaging, suspenseful fifty minutes of television.