Blake’s 7: Shadow

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

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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What a mess that was. Now I usually don’t show my hand this soon in these reviews but I just needed to get that out of my system as soon as possible. Now Blake’s 7 has a format of approximately fifty minutes per episode and there is only so much a writer can do in that time. Chris Boucher however tries to do far more than that in the time available to enough with enough ideas to fills half a series worth of episodes. Now since I’ve brought up Chris Boucher I might as well mention the fact that he’s the first to write for Blake’s 7 who’s not the series’ creator Terry Nation. That’s not to say he hasn’t been involved though as he was script editor for the entirety of the series’ run. His debut episode as a writer is directed by Jonathan Wright Miller who is an entirely new face but unfortunately one that won’t be around for long having only this episode and the fourth episode of the second series, Horizon. Admittedly he has his work cut out for him and it’s easy to see that while he’s not a bad director this episode was a challenge he was just not cut out for. Now the episode has two main plots which I will explain into in a minute but one thing that was really poor about them was that they had no business being in the same episode. There was so little connecting the two and they are so different that it feels like the episode doesn’t know what it’s trying to be. It doesn’t know which plot to focus on which leads to both being extremely underdeveloped and one of them is so unusual that it doesn’t feel like Blake’s 7 at all.

Space City is a retched hive of scum and villainy and it’s also where the episode begins as Blake arrives there looking to use the Terra Nostra, a notorious criminal organisation, in his crusade against the Federation. After negotiations fail Blake opts for plan B and sets the Liberator on a course Zondar, the source of a highly addictive and lethal drug known as shadow. Orac meanwhile is possessed by an alien entity from another dimension which targets Cally. Blake, Jenna and Avon teleport down the planet and find that the Terra Nostra are actually run by the president of the Federation who is controlling both sides of the law in order to achieve total control. Cally soon follows them down and encounters the telepathic moondisks of the planet which help her to defeat the entity controlling Orac. With the shadow refinery destroyed and the mystery of Orac solved the crew of the Liberator leave the system pursued by seven Federation ships with the unsettling thought that they could be all the good guys left in the galaxy.

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Now I’m not going to be too negative about this episode as it actually does quite a few things well and one of those is the character themselves. It’s odd to think that Chris Boucher is doing a better job with Terry Nation’s characters than Terry Nation himself was. Take Cally for example. Her telepathic abilities were all but forgotten by Terry Nation after her first few episodes but here they are crucial to the story (well one half of it at least) and not only that but Cally is also shown as a very strong and intelligent character when threatening Space City. Gan is also given some good stuff to do at last as he stands up to Blake who is quite possibly beginning to go a bit too far in his crusade for peace. This was something that began to build up a bit in the previous episode and it will hopefully continue to do so as the series go on before finally coming to ahead at some point as while there is doubt within the ranks in this episode it doesn’t really go anywhere as of yet which is probably a good thing given how much stuff’s going on already. Nevertheless it’s nice seeing the often neglected Gan getting something interesting to do for a change. The same cannot be said for Jenna though who is largely forgettable in this episode and the only thing that saves Avon from the same fate is his usual wit. Then we have Vila who becomes a bit of a caricature of himself in this episode and ends up being either hilarious or just simply annoying at times which has become a growing problem for him recently.

The episode is also surprisingly adult at times with it’s handling of drugs and it’s rather physiological direction with the Orac plot line. The drug addict character of Hanna in this was kind of an interesting one although one that if feel just helped to overcrowd the story even more and didn’t really do much at all other than show the ruthlessness of the Terra Nostra. Shadow itself was also a nice idea but it could’ve done with a bit more focus seeing as the episode’s named after it. Seeing a trend yet? To be perfectly honest I think that the way to fix this episode’s problem of not having enough would be to take the Orac plot line out completely. Not that I dislike that plot line but it’s just that I feel it deserves an episode of it’s own for it to be good. The idea of an alien entity from another direction is also quite a strange one for Blake’s 7 and doesn’t exactly fit in with the tone of the series that’s been laid out so far and certainly doesn’t fit in with the tone of this episode. As a one off oddity on it’s own it might have but as the other half of this episode it just doesn’t.

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To sum up, this episode is full of loads of half-baked ideas and it ultimately just feels like a mess. But at least it’s a mess that does a good job with most of it’s characters. For that reason I’m giving this strange piece of television a four-out-of-ten but I would like to stress that it is not my least favourite episode so far, although it isn’t that far off. Chris Boucher returns to write the next episode and I hope it’s an improve on his first effort. Next week we’ll be looking at Travis’s and Servalan’s return in Weapon but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.