Wednesday, 7 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S3E02 Powerplay

The second episode of the third season follows on directly from the first, but this will be the last time one runs into another until the Season 3/4 handover. The result is largely dependent on watching "Aftermath", possibly moreso than any of the other 'second part' episodes, following directly on from the shock discovery that waiting for Avon and Dayna on the repaired Liberator are a squad of Federation troopers, let by a dashing young man with Blake's hair.

Of course, we all know how that Captain Del Tarrant is actually not a captain but a sympathetic smuggler just as motivated to get rid of Section Leader Klegg and his men. I'd be curious to know how convinced viewers at the time where; probably not very, to be honest. Even Chris Boucher's moments of showing Federation troopers and officers as career soldiers who aren't especially evil wouldn't cover the suspiciously clean-cut Tarrant or some of his odd actions. It's certainly not enough to sustain the whodunnit aspect; while they don't let it run to the end of the episode most viewers would guess Tarrant is an ally to some degree even if he wasn't going to become a crew member.

Still, Avon gets to show a bit of guile with some of his antics and there are some very good scenes. I especially like his detailed, reasoned deduction that Harmon is the one killing the troopers off only for Tarrant to admit it's him. As Del spends most of this episode pretending to be someone else he makes a somewhat weak first impression; it will actually take a while for his character to form as he doesn't really have much of an introduction as a result. Dayna makes a stronger impression, remaining fierce and dangerous for the time being and getting a couple of good fight scenes - neither will last; Josette Simon is fit but clearly no natural fighter and her action scenes will vary wildly depending on the crew, but here she's good, and the character continues to work well in tandem with Avon even without the kissing - once again sadly this will not remain the case.

Vila and Cally's threads are picked back up here and, well, they're not great. Vila starts off alone and injured on one planet before being initially taken in by a couple of not-unfriendly natives (John Hollis can't actually smile) and then captured by the Hi-Techs (dolly birds with silly crap helmets) and to their city on Chenga. Where Cally and Servalan arrive, having been picked up by the same 'medical' ship and arriving at processing at the exact same time as Vila. Ouch. You could make an argument that the Chengans are actively looking for survivors around the battlefield and seeing as both Cally and Servalan were shipwrecked around the same time in the same rough area it's not impossible but on the back of the Servalan/Avon coincidence last week it really is a bit much; Terry Nation is clearly simply trying to reunite the crew as soon as rapidly as possible so normal service can resume.

And what is the Chengan hospital stuff about anyway? The organ harvesting thing is nicely macabre but is it really, really worthwhile for them, with the bounty hunters and the ships and all? For a few organs? And that rubbish simplicity versus technology thing that's set up and ignored? It's dumb, and who are all the other people anyway - they don't look like Federation, were there really so many independents joining in? It also totally undermines any sort of tension building up in the Liberator plotline when we have to keep cutting back and the whole thing isn't the most dignifying for either character. Nation had tried to pitch writing Vila out at least twice at this point so fair play to him for having a go at writing him some funny lines now he knows he's sticking around but it's not great despite once again Michael Keating giving it his all, while the character's street smarts are hardly reinforced as he asks no questions about his seeming ridiculous good fortune. Cally meanwhile spends basically the entire episode in bed; while it's nice that someone got injured from all of this it does mean she contributes absolutely nothing beyond turning up, and her attempts to hide from Servalan behind a welding mask are farcical.

So again this one is a means to an end - I love Season 3 but it doesn't half take its' time getting going. To be fair it's difficult to judge the suspense angle when you know Tarrant's a good guy and there is some sharp dialogue, while it's nice to see the crew - such as they are - on the back foot onboard the previously safe Liberator, with Avon especially stripped of weaponry and computer resources. Like "Aftermath" it goes along well enough and sets things up passably but it's hardly the series at its' zenith.

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