Duel

Written by:
Terry Nation
Directed by: Douglas Camfield
Episode Length: 51'11
Original UK Transmission Date: 20/1/1978
Original UK Ratings: 10.0m
Original UK Chart Position: 45

DVD Availability: Try sendit.com or Amazon

Starring: Gareth Thomas (Blake), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Paul Darrow (Avon), Jan Chappell (Cally), Michael Keating (Vila), David Jackson (Gan) and Peter Tuddenham (Zen).

Guest-Starring: Stephen Greif (Travis), Isla Blair (Sinofar), Patsy Smart (Giroc) and Carol Royle (Mutoid).

Crew: Tony Virgo (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Ian Scoones/Mat Irvine (Visual Effects Designers), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Ken Willicombe (Film Cameraman), John Murphy (Film Recordist), John S. Smith (Film Editor), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Tony Millier (Studio Sound), Richard Yeoman-Clark (Special Sound), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), Barbara Lane (Costume Designer), Marianne Ford (Make Up Artist), Bob Blagden (Graphics Designer), Dudley Simpson (Music), Frank Maher (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Roger Murray-Leach (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia: This is the only Travis episode in which Servalan doesn't appear.

Story: The Liberator has four exhausted power banks and orbits around an unnamed planet to give the energy reserves the forty-eight hours they need to recharge. However, Travis has been following the trail of the ship, and attacks with three pursuit ships. As Blake prepares to ram Travis, two aliens on the planet below extract them both from their ships.
After thousands of years of war, the aliens have developed unimagined powers. Some of them can seem supernatural - indeed, they're possibly ghosts, as their vanishing and claims to be from a "dead race" might attest - but scientific explanations are also hinted at, such as both ships being placed in a statis field.
In order to understand the nature of aggression the aliens arrange a battle between Travis and Blake using only hand tools - a fight that Blake wins. However, he doesn't kill Travis, as he knows that as long as Travis is alive he will be the one chasing him, and he is an enemy he can defeat. Blake also claims that killing Travis is something he would enjoy too much. The aliens return Blake to the Liberator, and, having restored its energy banks, they allow it to leave orbit. Afterwards, they transport Travis back aboard his pursuit ship, where he muses that Blake made a fatal mistake in not killing himů

Avon: Avon shows a deeper side to his character (and Cally some understanding of him) when Gan and Vila accuse him of being uncaring. "I have never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational in order to prove that you care," he says, "or indeed why it should be necessary to prove it at all." After Vila questions "was that an insult or did I miss something?" Cally answers with a smile: "you missed something."

Mutoids: The Mutoids require blood serum to survive. The Mutoid who is stranded with Travis used to be a human named Keira. After the failure of the mission, he tells her that she will be court-martialled and probably "cease to exist" as a result.


Viewpoint:
"Hang on everyone, this is gonna be rough."
"I don't mind rough - it's fatal I'm not too keen on."


While Blake's 7 is clearly inspired by - or a reaction to - Star Trek, this is the first episode to really steal from it. While season three had the how-did-they-get-away-with-it? exploits of City at the Edge of the World, Duel is a direct lift from the Kirk vs. Lizard episode Arena. At least it maybe gave something back, with the blood serum of the Mutoids surprisingly similar to the Jem'Hadar and their Ketracel White in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Featuring some stagy "exteriors" shot in a set, along with a female guardian who appears to be cold and an old crone, this is an unsophisticated yet still enjoyable episode. There is something nicely quaint about an SF series where the commander has to draw a doodle on the screen to indicate three attacking ships, while Travis has to stand in a CSOed forest.

By its very nature plotless, this one is again watchable, yet also hugely indicative of Terry Nation's rapidly declining ideas for the programme.