Animals

Written by:
Allan Prior
Directed by: Mary Ridge
Episode Length: 49'57
Original UK Transmission Date: 26/10/1981
Original UK Ratings: 8.9m
Original UK Chart Position: 59

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Starring: Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila), Steven Pacey (Tarrant), Josette Simon (Dayna), Glynis Barber (Soolin) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Slave).

Guest-Starring: Jacqueline Pearce (Sleer), Peter Bryne (Justin), William Lindsay (Captain), Max Harvey (Borr), Kevin Stoney (Ardus) and David Boyce (Og).

Crew: 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), Malcolm Banthorpe (Videotape Editor), Jim Francis/Andy Lazell (Visual Effects Designers), Robin Lobb (Video Effects), Dick Bailey (Graphic Designer), Francis Smith (Properties Buyer), Terry Brett (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), Graham Lough/Roger Cann (Designers) and Vere Lorrimer (Producer).

Story: Bucol 2 was a planet that was abandoned by the Federation before the Galactic War after its mineral deposits were used up. However, it had seen been established as a Security Code XX scientific experiment area with a budget of 20 million credits. The sole scientist on the planet is identified only as Justin, a genetic engineer conducting brain correction treatment on a series of radiation-proof human/animal hybrids. After "up to 60%" of Federation front line troops were killed in the Galactic War, the "animals" were seen as possible replacements.
The Scorpio crew seek out Justin to enlist his help in creating an antidote to the Federation's pacifying drug (see Traitor) and send down Dayna, who had a relationship with him when he was a friend of her father's and her teacher. Justin lives in an impregnable bunker with a hundred years' worth of food and water. However, after three Federation pursuit ships chase after Scorpio, Dayna is left stranded, and soon captured by Servalan. Given aversion therapy to make her hate Justin, she betrays him, allowing Servalan to take over all his work. The animals are captured, with they and Justin being killed in a heated battle between Servalan's troops and the crew of the Scorpio. Avon tells Vila to teleport them back up to the ship as Dayna is left weeping over Justin's dead body.

Viewpoint:
"Alright, I'll do it… anything's better than listening to your jokes."

Be kind to dumb Animals. In a series which had a relatively uniform style and rigid parameters, unlike, say, the more varied Doctor Who, then it's easy for fans to pick on a particular episode they dislike. Animals is one such episode, almost universally condemned as the worst-ever Blake's 7 story. Okay, here's where I stick my neck out: I like it. Yes, the "animals" look stupid, but it's clearly identified in the script that they're human/animal hybrids. And as they were intended for military conflict then the powerful horns are explained. They also seem quite tragic creatures, inspiring pathos.

What makes Animals so good is that, despite the series being nominally political, this is one of the few episodes that actually offers moral debate. Justin questions the ethics of Avon's mission to overthrow the Federation, and the means by which he must do so. And with the subtext of genetic cloning then this episode is suddenly fifty times more relevant than it ever was. Hey, there's even a bit of postmodernism when Vila questions why he always gets the dirty jobs and Soolin responds with "typecasting?" Okay, Josette Simon gives one of her stagiest performances, the Dayna dummy is straight out of Benny Hill and Vila in the tank is pure Bodger and Badger. But is this really so bad? I can think of at least six episodes that are worse, just off the top of my head.

The idea of Justin being so much older than Dayna isn't as pervy as it initially sounds - after all, he could have flown out to Sarran to be her teacher, indulging in her "young love." Admittedly, it's still a tip-top jailbait situation, and hardly gentlemanly behaviour from her father's friend, but nowhere in the episode does it say he knew her when she was still on Earth. So they don't exactly have convincing chemistry. Do you think Tarrant and Zeeona or Vila and Kerril did in Warlord and City at the Edge of the World? If you're going to slate an episode for something, at least be consistent. Slave? I hate him. His misfiring comic "genius" is here subverted into the old "stop-saying-you're-sorry"/"sorry" gag. Yet be sure to check out 45'12m in, where, after doing a macho, chair-kicking entrance, Paul Darrow nearly slips over on the floor. The big tart.

I'll be honest - I just can't understand why this one gets such a slating. It's easily one of the more thoughtful season four episodes, and any criticisms seem to be largely superficial ones. And I don't know about you, but I find the bit where Servalan makes Dayna scream out just a bit kinky to be honest with you. Just listen to the way she moans…