Hostage

Written by:
Allan Prior
Directed by: Vere Lorrimer
Episode Length: 51’04
Original UK Transmission Date: 27/2/1979
Original UK Ratings: 7.8m
Original UK Chart Position: 65

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 Abineri (Ushton), Judy Buxton (Inga) Kevin Stoney (Joban), Andrew Robertson (Space Commander), Judith Porter (Mutoid) and James Coyle (Molok).

Crew: Peter Brayham (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Geoffrey Manton (Production Assistant), 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), Elizabeth Parker (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/Stephen Brownsey (Designers) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia: This is one of two stories to feature a character called Molok. Ben Steed’s eponymous season three story had a character with the same name, albeit spelt slightly differently: Moloch.

Story: After narrowly escaping an attack squad of twenty Federation pursuit ships, Blake receives a message from Travis. He tells Blake that he too is now on the run from the Federation, and that they should pool their resources. If Blake doesn’t meet him to talk then he will kill Blake’s cousin, Inga, a girl whom Blake confesses “meant a lot to me once.” Blake arrives at the destination point of the planet Xbar, on the fourth sector, co-ordinates BW130. He claims to remember the place from when he was a boy, and that it is an ex-penal colony. There Blake meets his father’s brother, Ushton, who is secretly working for Travis in order to save his daughter’s life. Ushton captures Avon and Vila, who teleport down after Blake, and all three are then incarcerated by Travis. However, Ushton turns against Travis and frees Blake and his crew. Avon then reveals that he had sent a message to Servalan, informing her of Travis’s location, and they teleport back aboard the Liberator before she arrives. Ushton and Inga claim they will make something from the planet, and stay behind, while Servalan arrives in command ship C26. She tells Travis that officially they are still enemies, but if he leads her to Blake then she’ll have him “officially listed as dead - there’s no one as free as a dead man.”

The Federation: Travis has four Crimos with him, who are described as criminal psychopaths. One of them says of himself “I have a high intelligence quotient, but I enjoy inflicting pain.”
The Federation also appear to have developed their own version of the detection screen. Avon claims disappointment as he wished to sell them the idea, though he’s possibly joking.


Viewpoint:
“What have I done to deserve this?”
“How long a list would you like?”


Some extremely impressive (relatively speaking, obviously) model effects mark out the opening of this episode. You might see the odd string or wire wobble, and Jenna’s console again displays shaky tendencies (cf. Space Fall), but for Blake’s 7 this is a high calibre opening.

Sadly, that’s all this episode has got. Other than the explosions and embarrassing slowfighting, Allan Prior’s story holds little in the way of plot. There are some unintentionally amusing bits, such as the dummy that falls, Benny Hill-style, off a cliff, or Sally Knyvette chewing most of her lines. And the understated love interest between her and Blake is interesting. Yet for a story where Travis is on the run from the Federation, a fellow outlaw, then this should have been so much better. Brian Croucher gives his weakest take on the character (apart from Voice From The Past, obviously) in a script that affords him little else other than shouting. Mind you, no one could say “Crimos” and sound credible. It’s as if the production team thought they’d got away with “Mutoids” and thought they’d see how far they could push it. Painfully thin on plot, I’d have to put the few decent lines down to Chris Boucher’s script editing, while the superlative Kevin Stoney is wasted in a minor cameo role.

There are some plot elements that don’t bear thinking about: why does Travis ask Blake’s uncle which of the Liberator crew is the weakest? He’s been following them for months, surely he’d have psychological profiles on them all? And even if he didn’t, why ask an old man who’d only known them for - at most - a couple of hours? And what happened to the Mutoid crew he was supposed to have at the end of Trial? Where did he get the Crimos? Okay, that one can be dealt with by using a little imagination, but surely it’s the programme’s responsibility to tell us these things? And the episode is the second to propagate the common myth that man would explode in space. (cf. Cygnus Alpha) Also a bit unappetising is Blake’s relationship with Inga. Okay, so cousins are allowed to marry, but it’s a bit dodgy, innit? What really unsettles is the age thing. Ushton remarks on how much Blake’s grown, so we can presume he was below eighteen when they last met. He’s thirty-four now (see Weapon) so he’s been gone at least sixteen years. And how old is Inga? Twenty-five? Quite apart from the age difference, how old was she when Blake knew her? And then he gives her a full smacker on the lips as they part… God, man, that’s her DAD standing next to you! Ain’t you got no shame??

Ultimately this one ties events up too conveniently, Travis and Servalan are playing the old pals act again, and how many times have we seen stories where the crew get captured on a planet, leaving just two members (usually the women) onboard with no idea what’s happened to them? In TV terms it was only four weeks previously, with another weak season two episode, Horizon. Allan Prior turned in another three Blake’s 7 scripts after this, but you ultimately have to ask yourself… were any of them any good?