Blake’s 7: Pressure Point

June 7, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


What a gut punch of an episode that was. Now I don’t usually stress the point that these reviews contain spoilers but because of what happens in this one I would like to say that you will be reading on at your own risk. Now that that’s been said let’s talk about the big topic of this episode and that is, of course, the death of Gan. This means that this episode is the final appearance of David Jackson as Olag Gan, a role he had been playing since the second episode of the series, Spacefall. Jackson himself was not upset when he found out his character was going to die as he felt he had too little to do in many of the episodes. One of the original ideas was that Gan would be killed by a double agent who would then go on to join the crew of the Liberator as a Federation spy but for whatever reason this idea was not gone ahead with, possibly because they crew of the Liberator had grown quite large by this point and replacing Gan immediately after his death would not have solved
this problem. Gan’s death did quite a bit for the show afterwards as it gave an added element of suspense as viewers would now know it was possible for a crew member to be killed off and it also meant that with one less crew member to worry about more focus could be put on those remaining. The man who wrote out Gan was series creator Terry Nation, returning for his second script of the second series. The director, meanwhile, was George Spenton-Foster who had directed Weapon just two episodes earlier. One more bit of trivia before we move on to the synopsis is that the episode is the first to be set on Earth since the very first episode, The Way Back.

After fighting the Federation across the galaxy Blake decides to take the battle right to it’s heart and plans to destroy the main computer nerve centre on Earth. The episode begins with him preparing to meet up with resistance leader Kasabi but unfortunately she is captured by Servalan and Travis and together they set a trap for Blake. After evading the Federation’s trap Blake elects to continue with the plan despite the increased risk now that they don’t have back up from Kasabi. Despite some protest Blake, Avon, Vila and Gan continue with the plan and enter control. Inside they are disappointed to discover that the main computer nerve centre was moved thirty years ago and the whole thing was a trap. Travis prepares to execute them but before he can Servalan shows up, held at gun point by Jenna. She demands that Travis let’s her friends go and he does. They then run in an attempt to get into teleport range but during their escape Travis throws a strontium grenade which brings the roof down on Gan, killing him. His last words to Blake were that he was not worth dying for and he then breaks the news to the others than Gan didn’t make it out. They then leave to get as far away from Earth as possible.

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I’m gonna start off by talking about Gan’s death and, as previously stated, it’s a real gut punch. It also follows up on the on going plot line of Blake going too far in his fight to defeat the Federation. Gan’s death is very much down to Blake’s refusal to give up despite the ever increasing risk and no doubt this will have a huge affect on him in the episodes to come. Up until now there were very few consequences to Blake’s actions and now he has lost who was arguably the most loyal of his followers. Ultimately I feel that Gan was the right choice to kill given that his character was far too often given too little to do which ultimately made him the least interesting. This event also links back to Shadow in which Gan was challenging Blake and Blake failed to heed Gan’s warning’s then but just about got away with it. Nevertheless he didn’t learn anything from it and that failiure to learn lead to him repeating his mistakes again with far worse consequences. Gan will be missed but ultimately someone had to go to add some much needed suspense to the show as up to this point the character’s had been in difficult situations but managed to escape unscathed, in future they may not be so lucky.

Now for the rest of the episode which was one of the strongest yet in my opinion. It seems a break was just what Terry Nation needed as after three episodes off he’s back on top form again and writing solid stories. This episode could almost be considered the mid-series finale as right from the start it has that sort of epic quality to it which lets you know something big is going to go down. It also holds nothing back and jumps straight into the story itself which can sometimes annoy me as it means there’s no build up but here it can be forgiven as any time spent on build up would’ve been wasted as the rest of the episode would then have been rushed, leaving a very poor balance of pacing overall. Should it of been a two-parter then? Maybe but maybe not. I personally feel they should built up computer control a bit more over the previous four episodes so that you’d know what it was about here but they’d only of been little mentions so that those stories could still stand very well on their own. Then we have the villains of the piece, Travis and Servalan. Brian Croucher does much better job here as Travis than he did before as he’s tuned down quite a lot compared to his previous appearance which makes him much less pantomime and much more threatening. It feels like he was trying to hard before but at least he’s now found his feet in the role. Then there’s Servalan who is played as wonderfully as ever by Jacqueline Pearce but we also get to dive into her back story a bit through the character of Kasabi who she betrayed. We also find out that part of the reason she is in her position is thanks to relatives in high places which fits perfectly with her character.

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In conclusion, Pressure Point is probably the best episode of series two so far and I look forward to seeing the aftermath in the episodes to come. It’s a nine-out-of-ten from me as it’s still not utterly breathtaking and I’m still waiting for the episode that really knocks me off my feet in terms of quality. Maybe the next episode will be that episode as Trial seems to be held in quite high regard by many fans. Will I give my first ten-out-of-ten to a Blake’s 7 episode? You’ll have to wait and see but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s 7: Horizon

May 31, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Another new face for Blake’s 7 in the form of writer Allan Prior. He’s someone I personally wasn’t familiar with until I watched this although fans of the classic police drama Z-Cars will probably recognise him given that he wrote a total of one-hundred-and-thirty-six episodes for the show and it’s spin-off Softly, Softly. In fact, in a somewhat cruel twist of fate (I’m being slightly over-dramatic) Blake’s 7 was originally made to fill the gap left by the cancellation of Softly, Softly. Blake’s 7 even kept the same budget, a budget which worked fine for a police drama but it wasn’t the best for a space opera. Now let’s talk about the person who had to deal with that budget, Jonathan Wright Miller. He had previously directed the second episode of the second series so it’s a quick return for him but it’s also his only return as he directed no more episodes of Blake’s 7 following this. Admittedly I’m not going to miss him too much as he was a rather standard director who didn’t exactly bring anything to the series but at least didn’t really take anything away either. One other production note is that there’s a familiar face on the cast list in the form of Brian Miller who would go on to appear in the recently reviewed Doctor Who story Snakedance. He was also the husband of the late Elisabeth Sladen who had played the popular character Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who. Now with the production details out of the way let’s move on to the episode’s synopsis.

A mysterious Federation freighter is heading towards the edge of the known galaxy and the episode begins with a curious Blake deciding to follow it. It leads them to a strange planet designated Horizon and Blake and Jenna decide to teleport down to investigate. After loosing contact with them Gan and Vila go down to find out what’s happened and contact is lost again. Cally finally goes down and the pattern repeats itself once more, leaving Avon alone up on the Liberator. On the planet below it turns out that most of the local population are living as slaves under the rule of the Federation. Blake and the others were captured and are now being forced to work in the mines alongside the inhabitants of Horizon. After realising that he can’t go on forever without the others, Avon goes down and rescues them. Blake then manages to convince the planet’s leader, Ro, that the Federation are just using him and then together they fight back against the invaders. Ro promises Blake that he will continue the fight against the Federation and the crew of the Liberator then leave with the knowledge that they now have one planet with them in their crusade.

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Now I will admit that this was a rather standard and predictable episode although not necessarily a bad one. The plot is probably something everyone’s seen many times before with the mislead leader realising he’s been manipulated and turning against his former tutor in order to free his people. Nothing particularly original there but nothing particularly bad there either. It’s at least something Blake’s 7 hasn’t done before so at least we get to see it with these different characters although the only one who truly takes part in this plotline is Blake himself. Then theirs Ro who takes on the role of the mislead ruler and while he’s initially quite interesting he ultimately ends up being rather dull when his tutor, Kommissar, turns up. Kommissar is an enjoyable villain but he was no Carnell and I ultimately wasn’t disappointed to see him bite the dust at the end of the episode. Come to think of it even his death was predictable which pretty much says it all.

Thanks to this rather forgettable plot the most interesting part of this episode is the in depth look at the character of Avon who spends most of the episode up on the ship contemplating whether he can survive without the others. They may seem like padding to some but to me they are the most interesting part of the episode simply because Paul Darrow’s such a marvellous actor and these scenes really do show off his acting ability. He hasn’t really got anyone to act against accept the voices of Orac and Zen and there aren’t that many lines either which means a great deal of what’s going on has to come from his facial expressions and he does this wonderfully. And the laugh at the end when he realises he needs the others really does sum him up perfectly.

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To sum up, this is probably the most neutral I’ve ever felt about an episode of Blake’s 7 and the only part I can say I properly enjoyed was the scenes with Avon in. Because of this I’m going to go straight down the middle with a rating of five-out-of-ten although I’m not too sure if it really deserves that. Anyway, big changes are on their way next week when Blake heads to Earth to strike right at the heart of the Federation in Pressure Point but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s 7: Weapon

May 24, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Unsurprisingly, the episode titled Weapon focuses on a weapon and the Federation’s attempt to gain control of it. Once again written by script editor Chris Boucher, Weapon is directed by another new face called George Spenton-Foster who went on to dirrect three more episodes, all of which from series two. The episode also features the return of Servalan and Travis but there’s something different this time. Travis is played by an entirely different actor in this episode and all subsequent ones after the original actor, Stephen Grief, declined the offer to appear in the second series and went on to pursue other roles. The recast of Travis was Brian Croucher who had previously appeared in another Chris Boucher penned production, The Robots of Death from Doctor Who. Recasting is never ideal as the new actor almost always ends up in the shadow of the old one and from what I’ve seen of Croucher so far I do ultimately prefer Grief although maybe that will change after I see more of Croucher in the role but at the moment I just find his portrayal a little to over the top. But what about the episode itself? Was that too over the top like the previous one? Let’s take a look and find out.

The episode begins with a paranoid Federation defector called Coser on the run with a slave he liberated called Rashel and a weapon of his own design called IMIPAK. It marks a person with a point of unstable matter which can then be activated at any time in order to kill said person. Servalan wants IMIPAK and together with Travis she uses a clone of Blake to trick Coser into giving the weapon to her. The real Blake and his crew are also in search of Coser but are to late as Servalan uses Coser’s own weapon to kill him. Upon their arrival Travis marks Blake, Avon and Gan using IMIPAK and they are then forced to retreat out of it’s range before Servalan activates it. The clone of Blake, together with Rashel, then steals the weapon and uses it on Servalan and Travis, forcing them to retreat also. Blake and his crew are now safe and IMIPAK is safely out of the Federation’s hands.

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For the most part Weapon is a very villain-centric episode with our heroes pretty much taking a back seat this time around as far as the plot is concerned. This time Travis and Servalan are in the pilots seat and are the ones who are driving the plot forward. Speaking of, there isn’t a whole lot of plot in this one which is a welcome relief after the overstuffed Shadow. Instead, it’s more of a character based episode and does very well on that front but not in the way that you’d expect. Instead of expanding on the main characters it builds up the guest characters and makes them all feel very real and well rounded which is something to be commended considering the fairly short running time. Carnell is easily the best and most enjoyable of these supporting characters, I’d even go so far as to say that I wish he could have been a recurring character as he was just that good and he certainly had the potential. A psycho-strategist would be a useful character for Servalan to have around and Scott Fredericks is just so good in the role. He’s also very funny and that last line had me in stitches, the delivery was just perfect. More one-off character as well written as him would be very welcome.

Coser and Rashel are our other two supporting characters who have a rather interesting dynamic for the short while that it (or more accurately Coser) lasts. He may be upset when she calls him her master but he still very much treats her like a slave despite the fact that he freed her. You could just call that inconsistent writing but I think it’s much more than that and as such it makes Coser a quite well layered character. Rashel might not be as well developed a character but she’s probably the more likeable and ultimately gets a happy ending after everything. The episode isn’t perfect however as the whole cloning sub-plot of the story feels a bit out of nowhere and takes a while to link into to the main plot so for that while you’re just left wondering what it was all about. The scenes with the Clonemasters are also quite weird and they just feel a bit too much like pantomime. They ultimately just don’t fit in with the style of Blake’s 7 and I’m not sure whether to blame the writer or the director for this. I also feel that a clone of Blake had a lot of potential that was rather wasted here, even if we would’ve ended up with a bit of a cliché storyline. Bringing up back full circle to the idea of this being a villain centric episode, Servalan is wonderful in this and it’s nice to have Jacqueline Pearce back. She’s an absolutely wonderful villain and she overshadows Travis even more now that he’s been recast. The only villain who could really rival her was Carnell whose time on the show was all too brief but I digress.

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Rounding off this episode, it’s a definite step up from Chris Boucher’s first effort and where it mainly excels is in the wonderful supporting characters. Because of this I’m giving it an eight-out-of-ten despite the plot being a bit weak. Next up is another episode which continues the recent trend of single word titles and it’s called Horizon but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s 7: Shadow

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

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


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.

Blake’s 7: Redemption

May 9, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


After the dramatic cliffhanger at the end of Orac Blake’s 7 returns for a second series to resolve Orac’s prediction about the destruction of the Liberator. At first I expected it to be a season long arc with the prediction hanging over the characters heads for quite a while but surprisingly it was completely resolved here in the first episode. Although it should be noted that the audience at the time would’ve been waiting nine months to find out what happened and probably wouldn’t want to of waited any longer than that and that’s fair enough. Behind the scenes wise very little had changed. David Maloney was still in the producer’s chair and Chris Boucher was still serving as script editor. Even the writer and the director of Orac are back with Terry Nation and Vere Lorrimer returning for Redemption. Although there wass one big change behind the scenes and that was that Terry Nation role was diminishing. Not only was he writing less episodes but he was also only being consulted on general storylines and ideas. Another change, albeit not a big one, was that Peter Tuddenham took over as the voice of Orac after the production team became aware that the original actor Derek Farr was unavailable. It was a change that was easy to get away with as it was a voice that the audience had only heard in one episode broadcast nine months earlier.

The episode picks up just hours after the last one left off with the crew of the Liberator trying to understand Orac’s prediction. Avon comes up with the answer by pointing out the stars in the background, noting that that constellation can only be seen from one place in the universe and if they avoid that sector then Orac’s prediction will never come true. With that mystery solved they quickly discover that they have more immediate concerns when the Liberator falls under attack from two unknown alien ships. Following the attack control of the Liberator is lost and Blake soon realises that the creators of the Liberators are taking back what’s theirs. Following the mysterious disappearances of Gan, Avon and Cally, Blake orders Orac to regain control of the Liberator but just after he does this the bridge is invaded. They are then taken aboard a space station where Avon and Jenna are imprisoned and Blake is taken for questioning. During questioning Blake learns that the creator of the Liberator is a super computer known as the System which enslaved its creators and took over its universe of origin. From the comfort of his cell Avon recognises the star constellation outside as the one from Orac’s prediction and realises that even if they escape the space station they are doomed to be destroyed. Despite this an escape attempt is launched and Avon, Jenna, Gan, Cally and Vila begin to fight their way through the space station towards the Liberator. Meanwhile, a malfuction in the system (brought about by Orac) gives Blake an opportunity to escape and they all meet back up again aboard the Liberator. They take off and are then pursued by a sister ship of exactly the same design. The ship then explores due to Orac’s interference with the System, fulfilling his prediction. With the Liberator and it’s crew now safe Blake orders Zen to take them to Earth sector, claiming that they have unfinished business there.

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It’s not hard to see that this is the start of a new series as the budget has been refreshed and thanks to this the visuals have returned to what they were at the start of series one. The fall in production values over the course of each series was a common problem for shows back then, especially when they had a budget at small as Blake’s 7’s to begin with. Now one would be forgiven for thinking that the production team blew at least half that budget on this first episode but the massive sets you see of the space station interior aren’t actually sets. It was actually all shot on location at what I believe is a nuclear power station. Additionally, the main casts costumes have all been given a significant upgrade (which is a little odd when you consider the events of this episode take place only hours after the previous one) and some of the changes are interesting to say the least. Avon now looks like he’s wearing some sort of biker jacket (which I think suits him) while Gan is wearing a massively impractical overcoat. Blake is probably wearing the strangest thing although the colours work quite well and I’m not sure what to think of Cally’s dress. Jenna and Vila are wearing the most simplistic clothes and it works out very well for them, especially Jenna with her costume matching her character very nicely. But the biggest costume problem in this episode is the costumes of the Alta’s who wear one very dull shade of blue and have random pieces of clear plastic stuck to them. This doesn’t exactly fit with the idea that they come from a highly advanced civilisation. On a more impressive note the model shots for this story are great and the model for the space station is particularly good. It’s also nice how the models all have similar elements to them which makes sense given that they were all built by the same civilisation. It’s also provides a nice bit of foreshadowing before it is actually revealed that the ships belong to the people who built the Liberator.

Now that we’ve had our little talk about the visuals let’s move on to the episode’s plot. And as plots go it’s quite a good one, nothing too breathtaking but definitely nothing bad. The balance of plot between the characters is fairly good although Blake and Avon (and maybe Jenna) are definitely in the forefront here. Gan gets a decent action scene which means that Cally is the one who gets the least to do here which I can live with given that she has been in the forefront of quite a few previous episodes and I’m sure will be again in some future ones. Then we have the Alta’s who are rather bland character and while they are meant to be emotionless it does unfortunately end up making them rather dull. And that isn’t helped by the fact that, as previously mentioned, their look is also rather dull. It’s also even more disappointing to think that these are the people who built the Liberator and I always preferred that plot point as one that remained a mystery, like the Doctor’s real name in Doctor Who. It’s something that will always be disappointing no matter what it ends up being and this just proves that point. I personally imagined the creators of the Liberator to be a bit more disembodied and mystical as opposed to the rather bland sci-fi idea that is presented here but anyway, I digress.

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In conclusion, I feel like my review of this episode is much more negative than how I actually feel about this episode. While it’s not as good of a series premiere as The Way Back was I’m still giving it a nine-out-of-ten for it’s sheer energy and excitement, especially in it’s second half. The epic scale of the location filming really helps to give the episode the hugeness that it needs and it ultimately leaves me very much excited for what’s to come. Speaking of, next up is the first episode not to be written by Terry Nation and it’s called Shadow but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s Seven : Orac

March 14, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

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.

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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.

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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.

Blake’s 7: Deliverance

March 7, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


The penultimate episode of series one is here and it’s a huge step up from what we had last week. Obviously it serves to set up the finale itself as any good penultimate episode should do but it also stands alone very well too. It also shines a spotlight onto the character of Avon who leads the expedition down to the planet and drives the primary plot while Blake is stuck up on the Liberator driving the secondary plot which serves to set up the next episode, Orac. It’s interesting to note that the two characters were originally supposed to be the other way round but were swapped and I believe that the episode’s better off for it. It’s once again written by Terry Nation and while Michael E. Briant is credited as sole director producer David Maloney also played a part in directing this episode although the extent of his involvement is unknown. This is also Michael E. Briant’s last involvement in the series having previously directed three episodes for series one. Now that we’ve finished talking about what happened behind the camera let’s move on to what happened in front of it.

Above the planet Cephlon is where the episode begins. The crew of the Liberator witness a small crash on the planet bellow and so Avon, Vila, Gan and Jenna go down to look for survivors. They find one survivor, Ensor, but the other crew member, Maryatt, has died. Ensor is badly injured and so he’s taken up to the Liberator for treatment. Blake and Cally look after him while Avon, Vila and Gan go back down to look for Jenna who mysteriously didn’t teleport back up. Meanwhile, Blake and Cally learn from Ensor that he was on his was to his father on the planet Aristo who is in urgent need of medical supplies. He also reveals that the Federation is willing to pay one hundred million credits for a machine called Orac. It is then revealed that Servalan sabotaged Ensor’s rocket so that his father would die from natural causes, leaving Orac defenceless. She then tells Travis to leave immediately to collect Orac. While looking for Jenna on the planet Cephlon Avon, Vila and Gan run into a woman called Meegat who believes Avon to be a god. They learn that she has been waiting for someone to launch their ship into space and so, after successfully rescuing Jenna, they agree to do so. Up on the Liberator Ensor holds Cally at gunpoint to force Blake to take him to Aristo. Blake reliuctantly agrees but then turns the ship around after Ensor dies from his injuries. After launching the rocket everyone is reunited on the Liberator and they then head off to locate Orac before Travis does.

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As previously mentioned, the main character of this episode is arguably Avon who, in an interesting turn of events, gets mistaken for a god on the planet Cephlon. Personally, I’m glad this was Avon and not Blake as it’s much more fun to see Avon in this position and enjoying himself a fair bit. There’s also a lot of additional humour gained by this move as well as some great lines from Vila and Avon alike. It was nice to see a different side to Avon but it wasn’t all fun and games as his first mission in charge almost ended in disaster when Jenna very nearly didn’t make it back. This not only affects Avon but Blake as well and it causes quite a bit of tension between the two. But having said that, when is there not tension between those two? Nevertheless it was interesting to see that play out. Unfortunately though, both of the female leads end up being the damsels in distress for the majority of the story with Jenna being held captive by the savage inhabitants of Cephlon and
Cally being held at gun point by Ensor.

But anyway, let’s move on from this and talk about Servalan and Travis’s brief but crucial role in this episode. Their appearance in this basically served to help set up the following episode and while it did so rather well I was slightly more interested in the new sides they were showing to the two characters. We get to see Servalan being extremely ruthless and manipulative and while we’ve always known she was capable of this this is still the first time we’ve really seen her doing so. We also get to see Travis return after his suspension at the end of Project Avalon and we see that it has had an effect on him. We also see a different side to his character when he finds that Sevalan sent Maryatt (the medic who saved his life) to his death. It’s not much but it’s just a little thing that allows us to see Travis’s humanity and it also reveals to us who is the more monstrous of our two villains. We also get a reference all the way back to the fourth episode of the series, Time Squad, in that the ship in that episode holds genetic stock in the same way as the ship in this episode. It’s not much by any means but it’s just a nice little link which shows us that the same patterns do recur throughout the galaxy and that not everything’s random. As for he story behind the planet Celphon, it is rather a simple one but given that the episode also had to set up the finale there’s not much more they could’ve done without making it seem rushed. And even though it’s simple it serves its purpose admirably. The divide between the primitives and Meegat’s people could’ve been better explained (presumably they are the remains of the two opposing factions from the war) but it’s nevertheless a nice idea that the war was so devastating that it eventually reverted society back to being primitive. Even Meegat, who seems hospitable enough, is still fairly primitive in the fact that she’s surrounded by technology that she doesn’t know a thing about. On the whole the are
some very good ideas here.

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To conclude, this episode has got me really excited for what’s in store next but the real highlight of it for me had to be Avon. Deliverance gets a nine-out-of-ten from me and so while we’re yet to reach perfection I’m still holding out hope that I will be able to give an episode full marks very soon. Next up is the series one finale and it’s title is Orac. Will it end my wait for an episode deserving of a ten-out-of-ten? You can find that out next time but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s 7: Bounty

February 28, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Well I guess it had to happen sooner or later, Blake’s 7 has had it’s first real dud for me in the form of Bounty. Now admittedly I didn’t give The Web the most respectable of scores but at least there I appreciated what it was trying to do and still found some enjoyment in it whereas here I just didn’t. I guess with Terry Nation having written all the episodes of the first series he had to slip up at some point and I just hope this is the only occasion as we get closer and closer to the finale. But anyway, let’s save the rest of my opinions for later in the review and instead focus on some facts. As previously stated the episode was written by series creator Terry Nation and it was also directed by Pennant Roberts. Bounty is his fourth and final directorial credit for the series and it’s rather a shame to see him go. While I’m obviously not too fond of his work on this one I still think he was a great director overall as two of his three other episodes are personal favourites of mine. For those who are interested those two episodes are Space Fall and Mission to Destiny. Also, an interesting bit of trivia in relation to this episode is that President Sarkoff’s place of residence was represented by the Waterloo Tower, a bell tower located in Quex Park in Kent. Just a quaint bit of trivia for those who are interested and for those who are more interested in the synopsis then here it is.

The episode kicks off with Blake and Cally trying to locate ex-president Sarkoff, the deposed leader of Lindor, a planet on the verge of civil war. Up until now Lindor has remained neutral but if war does break out then the Federation will more in peacekeeping forces and easily annex it. Blake and Cally then locate Sarkoff’s residence and attempt to sneak in without the Federation guards noticing. Meanwhile, the Liberator answers a distress call from another ship but ends up being hijacked by the notorious bounty hunter Tarvin, a former colleague of Jenna’s. Blake and Cally, however, have much better luck and are able to break in without detection and then head back to the Liberator with Sarkoff and his daughter Tyce. There they are tricked and Blake and Cally end up locked up with the others while Sarkoff and Tyce are held on the bridge by Tarvin. He intends to hand over the Liberator and it’s crew to the Federation in return for the thirteen million credit reward. Blake is able to escape the prison and rushes towards the bridge. Tyce pulls out a hidden gun but Tarvin stops her and the gun winds up in the hands of a reluctant Sarkoff. Blake then arrives and distracts Tarvin, allowing Sarkoff to shoot him dead. The Liberator then drops Sarkoff and Tyce off on Lindor so that Sarkoff can restore order and ensure Lindor’s neutrality.

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Now one big problem this episode has is that it lacks focus. There is obviously a primary plot and a secondary plot here but which one’s which is beyond me. It almost feels like Terry Nation started writing this with just the President Sarkoff plot and then halfway through realised that it wasn’t meaty enough to sustain a whole episode so decided to add another plot in with Tarvin which feels like it could’ve sustained an entire episode on it’s own and therefor leaves that side of the story underdeveloped. A lot of the interesting stuff takes place off screen as well with the Amagon’s attack and Jenna’s apparent betrayal taking simply being explained by Avon rather than actually being seen. Sarkoff’s story line also takes up way much more time than it should’ve done and more time should’ve been left for Jenna’s betrayal which could’ve been the most interesting thing to of happened to her since the series began but is unfortunately poorly realised which also reflects badly on Jenna’s character who’s had a bit of a rough ride up to this point.

A character who hasn’t had a rough ride however is Cally and it was great to see her using her powers of telepathy again at the start of the episode. It’s nice to see her going down to the planet with Blake and getting involved with some of the action and there’s also some nice dialogue between her and Sarkoff. Actually, one of the things this episode does have going for it is the dialogue which is very good for the most part. There are some great lines between Avon and Vila at the start when they are talking about the latter’s opinion and then again towards the end when they’re both imprisoned. There’s even some nice dialogue between the Federation guards at the start and you really do get the idea that they’re not the best the Federation have to offer just from a few simple lines about a rodent and a motion-scanner. Even Tarvin has a couple of good lines but I get the feeling that they tried to make him a loveable scoundrel kind of character but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. The line about his grandmother was still enjoyable though.

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To sum up, I think I’ve made it quite clear that this is my least favourite episode of the series so far but I also hope that it doesn’t come across as if I absolutely hate this episode with a passion as there is still a reasonable amount to enjoy in it. So it’s a four-out-of-ten from me and with that we can now finally move on to the next episode, Deliverance, which is the penultimate episode of series one but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s 7: Breakdown

February 7, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


As we continue our look back on Blake’s 7 we reach Breakdown, an episode which guest stars prolific film actor Julian Glover as a villainous surgeon called Kayn. Many will probably recognise him best from Indiana Jones and Star Wars where he played Walter Donovan in The Last Crusade and General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back. But that’s not all. He also appeared in the film version of Quatermass and the Pit as well as multiple Doctor Who stories. Other credits to his name include James Bond and most recently Game of Thrones so as actors go he’s certainly done a lot, especially in terms of cult television and film. Shifting focus back onto the episode itself, Terry Nation is once again at the helm in terms of writing and Vere Lorrimer has returned to direct his third story after previously working on the third and sixth episodes Cygnus Alpha and Seek-Locate-Destroy. Vere Lorrimer has previously managed to attract Brain Blessed to the role of Vargas in Cygnus Alpha so he seems to do a good job when it comes to casting big names but unfortunately his directorial decisions are often rather bland and simple which isn’t bad but instead just means that there’s more work for the actors to do to keep the viewers interested. Luckily they’re also backed up by a strong script so let’s look at that now with an overview of the plot.

Breakdown itself begins with Gan’s behavioural limiter implant malfunctioning which causes him to attack the rest of the crew. They manage to subdue him and diagnose what’s wrong with him. Unfortunately, they have no way of helping him alone and therefor must find help elsewhere. Avon suggests the neutral medical facility XK-72 and after traversing a dangerous sector of space they manage to arrive safely. Once there they meet a surgeon named Kayn who soon works out that they are fugitives and summons the Federation. Blake must then force Kayn to complete the operation as the enemy closes in. With the operation complete, Kayn is returned to XK-72 just as Federation ships arrive. They open fire but Blake is able to manoeuvre the Liberator out of the way and the blast instead strike XK-72, destroying it. Blake and his crew then make a swift exit and easily manage to outrun the Federation ships. Gan is then welcomed back by the rest of the crew and they then head off to continue their crusade elsewhere.

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It’s another good episode in my opinion, definitely lifted by the presence of Julian Glover. But as his brilliance is pretty much self-explanatory I’m not going to go on about him. Instead I’m going to talk about Gan who has been missing out on the limelight for far too long now. When I started watching this episode I thought it was going to centre around Gan and while I guess it did in one way it just wasn’t the way I’d hoped for. I guess the best way to describe it would be that while Gan is centre stage the spotlight is anywhere but. Similar to Avalon in the previous episode, Gan is treated as more of a plot device to drive the story forward than a character in his own right. He only really gets one proper scene as himself and the rest of the episode he spends either in a savage state or unconscious. But while Gan misses out in this episode some other characters are given a chance to shine. One of these is Cally who we get to see a more caring side of and we even get to see signs of an almost sisterly relationship between her and Jenna.

However, the character who is perhaps in the spotlight the most is Avon who almost abandons the crew of the Liberator in this episode. However, even when he’s doing so he’s not simply selling them out but is instead trying to make sure they get away safely. Eventually he does decide to return to the Liberator when Kayn’s interference causes things to become quite uncomfortable for the crew of the Liberator which proves that he has grown rather attached to his new friends even if he doesn’t like to show it. The episode also reveals that Avon has a number of boltholes scattered around the galaxy for him to find sanctuary in if things get too hot for him with the crew of the Liberator. It says quite a bit about his character that he has these but it says even more that he was willing to give one of these up to save the life of Gan. Speaking of Gan, he’s not the only thing that’s lacking in this episode as there is also a distinct lack of humour here. Now obviously I didn’t come into this expecting a slapstick comedy but I was expecting a little more than what I got. The only funny line I can think of is Vila’s one about being afraid of nothing and that’s rather feeble compared to a lot of the other stuff he’s come out with. Vila does get a serious moment though when he threatens Kayn which is nice to have.

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In conclusion, Gan may still be missing the attention that he now desperately needs but that doesn’t mean this is a poor episode. Breakdown is a nice little episode which develops some characters nicely and I’d give it a seven-out-of-ten for those reasons. We’re also now nearing the finale of the first series and next up with have an episode intriguingly titled Bounty but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

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.

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