A Guest Blog by Hevy782
Here we are at last at the series one finale, Orac. It’s named after a character (of sorts) previously mentioned in the last episode and properly introduced to us in this episode where it’s true nature is revealed. It is a highly advanced computer which can accurately predict future events and hack into any other computer system. It’s also got a bit of an attitude. For this episode only it is voiced by Derek Farr who also plays its creator Ensor. For all of its subsequent appearances it is voiced by Peter Tuddenham who also plays a certain other computer in the series, Zen. But my full thoughts on that can wait as for now we are looking at the end of the beginning and it’s amazing to think how far the series as come since its very beginning in The Way Back. It seemed to have a darker edge back in the first few episodes which seems to of gradually faded away and while that’s not to say the series isn’t dark still it just feels like it has a slightly softer quality which is more noticeable in some episodes than others. Bounty is a good example of this as there are dark moments such as Tarvin’s death (and Blake’s horrifyingly out of character laugh during it) that aren’t really complemented too well by the slightly ridiculous setting of an English castle. Certain characters have soften up quite a lot too since they were first introduced which is only natural I suppose. Jenna and Vila are probably the best examples to use here as the dark criminal side of their personalities was quickly dropped and the same thing eventually happened with Avon although that took a bit longer to come into affect which is probably why he’s the most interesting character in the series at the moment. Now that we’ve had a quick look back at where we’ve been let’s turn our head back to look at where we are now which is at Orac, the series one finale written by Terry Nation and directed by Vere Lorrimer, both of whom I think we can describe a veterans of the series by this point.
Continuing from where the last episode left off, the Liberator is on course for Aristo but their situation becomes a bit more desperate when they find that Avon, Jenna, Vila and Gan are all suffering from radiation sickness after spending too long on Cephlon. There only hope for survival is that there are radiation drugs on Aristo. Once they arrive, Blake and Cally teleport down and track down Ensor and his creation, Orac. They collect the anti-radiation drugs they need an give the power-packs to Ensor although they then learn that the will have to do the operation on board the Liberator. To make matters worse, they can’t teleport out due to a forcefield around Ensor’s complex and so have to leave on foot. They then run into Travis and Servalan, who are there for Orac, and while escaping through the caves Ensor dies from natural causes. With help from Avon and Vila they escape from Travis and head back up to the Liberator with both the anti-radiation drugs they need and Orac, who then predicts the inevitable destruction of the Liberator.
Interestingly the plot shifts focus here with the primary and secondary plots from Deliverance being swapped round here along with the characters in the spotlight. Blake and Cally take centre stage now to follow the Orac plot which is enjoyable enough but as a plot for a series finale it’s rather uneventful to say the least. Sure there’s a tense stand-off between Blake and Travis but if I’m brutally honest it’s nothing we haven’t really seen before. Avon’s arrival in this scene does help to freshen it up a bit but ultimately it feels like it’s more of the same. This episode as a whole doesn’t add anything to the character of Travis like the last one did and I personally feel that was a rather bad missed opportunity. There isn’t even a big struggle to escape from a Federation fleet at the end or anything along those lines for that matter. On the plus side though we did get to see that Avon was perfectly willing to kill both Travis and Servalan for what they’d done. It’s not really all that surprising a twist for his character but it’s a nice moment nonetheless and having Blake stop him was a nice touch too as it showed the big difference between who are arguably the two central characters at this point in the series. Too some it may seem obvious as to who was right and who was wrong in this situation but to others (such as myself) it’s a little bit harder to decide. Sure, Blake can now claim the moral high ground here but does he really expect his crusade to succeed if he feels he can’t do what arguably needs to be done. While Avon’s way may involve killing in cold blood it is more likely to lead to a better future. So the question is: does the end ever justify the means?
Servalan was good here although, like Travis, I feel she had some better stuff to do in the previous episode. It’s nice to see her take a more active role in proceedings but even though she is down on the planet with Travis it still doesn’t feel like she’s doing anything. As for her scream when being cornered by the cave monster, well there are some who would defend this to their last breath and others who would say it just ruins the character but I personally am not going to choose a side in this debate and just accept that it happened and move on. And hopefully the character of Servalan will too and then go on to do better stuff in her following appearances. Moving away from the topic of the main plot for a bit let’s instead take a quick look at the sub-plot (if you can even call it that) which focuses on Avon, Jenna, Gan and Vila suffering from radiation sickness. It’s curious how often Terry Nation uses radiation in his writing. Radiation is a huge part of his first Doctor Who story The Daleks with the Doctor and his companions suffering from radiation sickness too in that story funnily enough. I guess it was foolish of me not to predict this subplot happening after the reference to the radiation levels Cephlon given how Terry Nation does have a tendency to reuse his old ideas. Whether he does this intentionally or otherwise is something we will likely never have a definitive answer too although since it’s not been done before in Blake’s 7 it’s something that can be easily forgiven. It’s interesting to see Avon soldiering on through the sickness while Vila does quite the opposite and tries to convince himself that he doesn’t have it. It’s also quite amusing to see Vila acting so grumpy when he’s summoned to help Avon search for Blake and Cally later in the episode. Finally we have the ending, and what an ending it is. It was great fun to watch Orac interact with the crew of the Liberator, especially Vila and Avon with the former taking an almost instant disliking to the new character. It’s a wonderfully written scene which culminates in an epic cliffhanger to end the series on. It leaves me very excited for what’s coming up next as it doesn’t look to be a cliffhanger which can be easily resolved and it should have an interesting effect on the crew of the Liberator itself.
Rounding off this episode, Orac might not of been the finale I was hoping for but it still a good piece of entertainment and the cliffhanger makes me excited for what’s coming up next in the second series. I think an eight-out-of-ten is a fair rating for Orac and now it’s on to Redemption where we should get our answers about to the fate of the Liberator but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.