Trial

Written by:
Chris Boucher
Directed by: Derek Martinus
Episode Length: 51’20
Original UK Transmission Date: 13/2/1979
Original UK Ratings: 7.5m
Original UK Chart Position: 82

DVD Availability: Try sendit.com or Amazon

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

Guest-Starring: Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Brian Croucher (Travis), John Savident (Samor), John Bryans (Bercol) Peter Miles (Rontaine), Victoria Fairbrother (Thania), Claire Lewis (Zil), Kevin Lloyd (Par), Graham Sinclair (Lye) and Colin Dunn (Guard Commander).

Crew: Jackie Willows/Pauline Smithson (Production Assistants), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Mat Irvine/Peter Pegrum/Andrew Lazell (Visual Effects Designers), Max Samett (Film Cameraman), John Gatland (Film Recordist), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Malcolm Johnson (Studio Sound), Richard Yeoman-Clark (Special Sound), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), Barbara Kidd (Costume Designer), Anne Ailes (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Gerry Scott (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia: This is the episode with the longest wait before the appearance of the Liberator crew. It’s six minutes, seventeen seconds before we first see the ship. The nearest antecedent is the episode Countdown, which takes 6.06m before revealing the regulars, followed by Sarcophagus (5’55m) and Sand (5’13m).

Story: Travis is charged with the murder of 1417 unarmed civilians on the planet Sercasta under section three of the War Crimes Statute, Code Jenkin 1/3. The date code was Beta 2001, which Servalan refers to as “three years ago”. Hoping Travis will be executed so her mishandling of the Blake affair will be overlooked, she appoints her own staff, Major Thania, as Travis’s defence council. However, Travis sees through this and makes his own defence speech. Despite this, he is still found guilty and sentenced to be stripped of his rank and executed as a civilian. As the court is about to pass sentence, Blake (who has spent 13 hours on an unnamed planet in contemplation over Gan’s death) attacks the base at quadrant six, killing the members of the Trial room, and allowing Travis to escape. He holds Servalan at gunpoint and she grants him a ship with Mutoid crewmembers.

The Liberator: Avon has created a detector shield that will keep the Liberator off everything but the Federation’s close-range scanners.

Travis: Travis identifies himself as “Travis Alpha 1505”. A reference to the grades, first mentioned in Shadow?

Game: The first of four games in the series is seen here, consisting of large white pieces with gold trimmings, as well as smaller pieces of silver or gold. Played on a circular board, it resembles either chess or drafts, though as standard chess is seen in other episodes (most notably Weapon and Gambit) then there's no reason to presume this is a variation on the same game. Whatever it is, Avon appears slightly bemused when Jenna starts beating him at the game...

Viewpoint:
“You’ve decided to be led like the rest of us?”
“I shall continue to follow, it’s not quite the same thing.”
“I don’t see the difference.”
“I didn’t really think that you would.”


It’s perhaps not appreciated what an innovative episode of Blake’s 7 this is. Two separate plot strands run through the episode, with the Liberator crew actually designated the “B” plot. It’s handy, because it gives the wounded crew a much-needed respite while adding dimension to the Federation. Okay, the two plots dovetailing may smack of contrivance to some, but it adds a level of narrative irony by having Blake inadvertently saving Travis’s life. (True Anorak aficionados might like to know that out of 49’27 of footage, 22’01 minutes are dedicated to the Travis plot).

If I was sexist and puerile I’d point out how great Jenna’s arse looks in that leather, but I’m not, so I won’t. Mind you, her knockers look nice as well. Also interesting is the scene where Zil parts the flaps of Earth and teaches Blake to lick from it. Paging Dr. Freud…

Peter Miles does his old civilised Nyder routine, while John Bryans has a tendency to call Travis “Travers”. The episode is higher than average in set squeaks and off-camera crashes, while Mr. Boom Mike Shadow has more than his fair share of cameos. However, direction by Derek Martinus keeps things reasonably tight.

While the whimsical Zil might not be a total success, Trial is yet another example of Chris Boucher understanding the series far better than its creator.