Sunday, 11 February 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S1E04 Time Squad

"Time Squad" is often grouped with the opening trilogy of episodes due to the debut of Cally, the last of the original crew but that aside the format is much closer for what will become the default template of the first season and the opening episodes of the second - part of the crew teleport down to do something proactive against the Federation while the remainder face some minor crisis on the Liberator which may or may not dovetail with  the surface action - but more likely will just result in the ship not being on station at some crucial point to provide a getaway, allowing for people to be locked up. Indeed, the only real difference between Cally and the later guest allies is that she survives and gets offered a slot on the crew.

The "away team" mission is what would become the default for early episodes too (with variations used in "Seek-Locate-Destroy" and "Project Avalon") - Blake and two others teleport down to some Federation facility to commit some sabotage. Said facility is usually a power station and there are a few scenes of troopers getting biffed from behind, etc - the plus side to this one being that shit robot isn't in it. Avon and Vila go along, with the latter getting to show off his lockpicking skills. On this occasion they meet up with the sole remaining member of the resistance on Saurian Major, the Auron Cally. As an aside, I actually like the pink-tinted pictures on the surface; it's a shame this couldn't have been done a bit more often.

Blake's 7 has an odd relationship with aliens, feeling like it's skeptical about them while also hinging key plot points (even at this stage there's the hazy origins of the Liberator) on the things. There are a great many characters who show up where it's not clear if they're humans or just human-looking aliens. The Aurons at least have their telepathy; in a way it's a bit lame as Cally can't do much useful with it, only being able to hear the thoughts of others if they broadcast them to her - how does that work, exactly? How do you specifically think at someone as a non-telepathic untrained human? Best not to worry about that, it'll go on to work more or less however an episode needs it to and the limitation means it doesn't feel like the crew have stumbled across Jean Grey or something.

Until Dayna rocks up in Season 3 Cally is probably the show's most inconsistent character, or at least the most quickly diluted. She'll go on to largely be the Compassionate One of the crew, the one most likely to voice concern at some act of terrorism that will kill loads of innocents but here she's all about the killing, being on the point of a suicidal solo attack on the Federation communications centre when the boys turn up and talking about nothing but death. Maybe she snaps out of it when Blake helps her fulfil her mission on Saurian Major but it does feel like a lurch; like Gan and to a lesser extent Jenna she will suffer from there just not being enough for six regulars to do in each episode for much of the season, though unlike Gan she'll be around long enough to carve a better role as things go on. But already there are serious signs that Blake and Avon are the headliners while Vila's status as comic relief and his lockpick skills means he makes more of an impression.

Jenna and Gan meanwhile are lumbered with a dreadful B-plot concerning a shuttle full of cryogenic sleepers, which is the source of the episode's equally awful title. Even this plays off the A-plot as there's a little drama while the thing's brought onboard for some early jeopardy, apparently against the wishes of Zen. I'm not sure what to make of the latter; it's hard to see if the script's implying that Avon is lying about Zen's helpfulness in order to place Blake in danger because he then saves him through skill when it might have been easier to kill him. Blake's exchange with Gan afterwards is very odd.

Anyway, the sleepers begin to awaken and attack Gan and Jenna when the others are down on Saurian Major. The reason for this is never really explained beyond some vague talk that they're perhaps guardians protecting the pods and after a few scraps with the crew they're flushed back into space with no questions asked. It's one of the series' most shameless time-fillers, also featuring a couple of badly stagy fights.

The other development is the revelation of Gan's limiter, a brain implant that prevents him from killing. So is he trying to kill these guys? That's not very Gan, and the limiter doesn't stop him shoving guards around in "Space Fall". How does it work - does it track murderous intent or what? Does he shoot people as the series goes on? I can't actually think of any time he does. Maybe this is an early sign of the limiter malfunction that would later be tackled in "Breakdown" but apart from that episode this is about the only time Gan's limiter is mentioned. It's never really a consideration when he's picked for any missions, but then Nation & Boucher rapidly give up on doing much with him anyway.

It all adds up to a not-great episode. Actually, that's not entirely fair. Cally's introduction is solid in itself, the Saurian Major scenes aren't bad just because they will be copied and it's not this episode's fault Gan basically goes nowhere. It's just that the sleepers subplot really is abysmal and drags much of the rest down.

No comments:

Post a Comment