Blake’s 7: Project Avalon

January 17, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


The dreaded security robot returns in this week’s Blake’s 7 episode, Project Avalon. Now it’s well known that the budget for Blake’s 7 wasn’t that big but I’m sure a little bit more money could’ve been spent on the security robot to at least make it look competent. But other than that the effects and sets were quite good this time around. By today’s standard they’re nothing amazing but to judge them by today’s standards would be unfair given that it’s a product of the late seventies. I’m not sure whether they had more money for this episode or just made better use of what they had but either way the episode looked better for it. But anyway, the episode itself was once again written by the sole writer for the series so far, Terry Nation, and is directed by Michael E Briant. Briant had previously directed the first and fifth episodes (The Way Back and The Web) and will return one last time to direct the penultimate episode of the first series, Deliverance, but we’ve still got a few episodes to go before then so for now let’s focus on Project Avalon.

The episode takes place on an unnamed planet where Travis wipes out a group of resistance fighters and captures their leader, Avalon, who has started similar rebellions on many nearby planets. Prior to this, she made contact with Blake and had arranged for him to come and take her off world. With Blake on his way, Travis’s trap was set. Blake arrives and teleports down with Jenna and Vila to find all but one of the resistance dead. They then decide to rescue Avalon from the Federation’s underground facility but unbeknownst to them the real Avalon has been replaced by an android duplicate. Federation Supreme Commander Servalan then arrives to oversee the operation and brings with her a deadly and fast acting virus for Travis to use on the Liberator. Blake then infiltrates the facility, rescues Avalon (unaware that she is an android) and teleports back to the Liberator. He then becomes suspicious of the ease in which they escaped and then, after a brief struggle, stops the android Avalon from releasing the virus inside the ship. Blake then has Avon reprogram the android and teleports back down the planet with it. He then forces Travis to hand over the real Avalon while the android holds the virus and allows them to escape. Travis is able to stop the android releasing the virus but Servalan tells him that there will be a full enquiry into his failure and until that time he is relieved of command. He then once again swears that he will destroy Blake, even if it takes all his life.

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When we took a look at Duel last week I commented on how Travis seemed rather incompetent and more of a pantomime villain than anything else. Not wishing to repeat what I said last week, let’s just say this episode didn’t really help that too much. He’s so sure of himself all the way trough the episode until the final moments where he is outsmarted and then swears that he will destroy Blake once again. Now this formula worked the first time in Seek-Locate-Destroy but started to feel a bit repetitive in Duel and now in Project Avalon it feels tired and predictable, something which Blake’s 7 should never be. But while Travis may be failing as a villain, Servalan is excelling. This episode marks the return of the Federation Supreme Commander who previously appeared in Seek-Locate-Destroy and sent Travis on his mission to destroy Blake. Jacqueline Pearce does a great job at playing her and really gives a subtle sense of villainy. Villains are always more fun when they’re calm and collected which is probably why I prefer Servalan to Travis as the latter often has great outbursts of emotion which only make him feel more incompetent, but maybe slightly more interesting as a character in his own right. It’s also the little things which make these characters interesting as villains. The Mutoid having to pick up the map dropped right at Travis’s feet, the way Servalan questions the Mutoids choice of the word demanded when refering to Blake’s request and the subsequent fear in the Mutoid’s reaction, things like this say a lot about the characters and the society they live in. We then have Servalan calmly telling Travis that he is relieved of duty which at least shows there are consequences to Travis’s actions and that Servalan isn’t as foolish as Travis can be at times. We also get to see Blake and Servalan meet for the first time which provides an interesting scene to end the episode on.

The episode itself is also another action packed one in which everyone gets something good to do, even if it’s only a little. Gan is the one with the least to do however which is unfortunate given that he hasn’t had a chance to do much since Time Squad. Admittedly Avon and Cally are stuck up on the Liberator for the whole episode too but they’re not really in need of any action for the time being and do actually have a decent role to play here with Cally’s character being explored further by her admiration of Avalon and Avon making the tough call of retreating from their position when Federation ships show up. Then there’s Jenna and Vila who get to accompany Blake down to the surface so that they can rescue Avalon. Admittedly Jenna doesn’t get to do too much on the emotional side of things but does at least get to be involved in the action. Same with Vila who exercises his usual wit and charm, the scene where he puts his arctic gear on is a particularly memorable one. Then we have Blake who is very possibly the focus once again but at the same time it could be argued that Travis is or maybe even Avalon herself is, after all she is the titular character. But Avalon doesn’t have too much to do and I would say is more of a macguffin than an actual character. Everything that happens in the episode revolves around her and her presence very much drives the story forward but everything that is revolving around her is actually more interesting than her. So it’s back to Blake and Travis and who wins? Well I would say neither. It goes back to that issue of moral ambiguity and while it is clear who’s good and who’s bad you still get to see the story from both points of view equally. Chevner is the last character to talk about and he’s basically the main supporting character since Avalon spends most of the story imprisoned by the Federation. Chevner is a good enough character and serves his purpose well enough and it would’ve been interesting to see whether or not he’d of joined Blake’s crew or stayed with Avalon if the android hadn’t killed him. Also, the idea of Travis using a deadly, fast acting virus to wipe out the crew of the Liberator was a fairly gruesome one and this was made even worse by the fact that they showed an innocent person die from it purely to show the ruthlessness of the Federation. It’s an effective scene made all the more so by Servalan’s presence in it.

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Rounding off this episode, it’s another action packed one right off the back of Duel but where it differs from the previous story is that the scale is much greater and the episode is all the better for it. This means it gets a nine-out-of-ten from me, one mark higher than Duel got last week, but I’m still yet to give full marks to an episode. Hopefully that’ll change soon, maybe even with the next episode which is titled Breakdown and it looks as if it’ll answer my wishes and focus more of Gan but until we find out for sure be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.