Hey everyone. I’m back from holiday and ready to get back into this. Full steam ahead with:
Season 1 – Episode 10 – Breakdown
We open with Gan having a slight episode and driving the Liberator into a meteor shower. Fortunately Jenna happens along and turns on the autopilot (one wonders why this wasn’t on in the first place) and has a dig at him for not being able to handle it. Gan continues his head clutching, much in the style of William Shatner, and Jenna tries to help. She calls Blake for help but before she can finish Gan’s grabbed her and tossed her off screen, presumably onto a strategically placed mattress. He drags her off and then Blake enters. He’s no match for the enraged Gan who eventually folds him up into a Jack Bauer style sleeper hold before the others show up and subdue him with a combination of knees to the abdomen and boxes on the back of the head.
Blake wants to enlist Zen’s help in providing instructions for neurosurgery so they can fix Gan’s limiter. I wonder if this is where Joss Whedon’s writing team got the idea for Spike’s chip in Buffy. The diagnostics come in and it’s surgery or death!
There are a range of options but the closest one is a space laboratory, the location of which Avon has been keeping secret as a potential bolt-hole for himself. The direct route to this place crosses a “zone of unacceptable danger” that Zen is unwilling to enter, so they have to go to manual. At this point, I should mention that Gan is in restraints in the medical room and Cally is watching him, alone. Cally is the single person who doesn’t think Gan should be in restraints at the moment. Does anyone else see a potential problem here?
Sure enough, entering the forbidden zone causes Zen to have a hissy fit and turn off all the auxiliary systems, meaning that the navigation and all other aspects of the ship are on a knife-edge. Avon wants to turn back but manages to put this across in a way which covers for the fact that he was one of the forces in the decision-making process that has led them into this problem.
David Jackson, who played Olag Gan, was from Liverpool. Apart from Blake’s 7, he was well-known for his role as DC Braithwaite in Z Cars throughout the 70s. He appeared in numerous TV programmes and films, including 10 Rillington Place (a real feelgood movie if you’ve not had the pleasure). His character in Blake’s 7, Olag Gan, was sentenced to life on Cygnus Alpha for killing a Federation Officer who had killed his girlfriend. The limiter chip in his brain was installed as he was ruled as insane.
Gan wakes up in the medical room, still in a killing mood and notices an unaware Cally. He’s in possession of his faculties enough to pretend to be asleep so as not to tip her off that he’s still bumpy-faced (to maintain the Spike analogy).
Avon sets to work trying to bypass the computer which has landed them in so much trouble. Personally, I think the problem may be something to do with the burglar alarm on the wall behind him. Time is ticking away however, as something has appeared on the sensors in the ship’s path.
Cut back to Gan snarling and trying to escape his bonds with Cally oblivious. With this not working, he pulls the “I’m fine now, please let me out…” and she falls for it. Way to go with the psychic powers, Cally. As soon as her back is turned he grabs her and is about to choke the life out of her with a quite disturbing smile when some turbulence shakes them apart and he runs off.
Avon starts talking into the burglar alarm but no-one is listening as they’re all transfixed by a washing machine full of tizer on the monitors. This is a gravitational vortex and…
It’s going to destroy the ship. Gan finds Avon and tries to kill him by wrenching out a whole section of the computer banks and trying to bash him with them. In turn, another burst of turbulence throws him into the wall and he collapses in a heap. Blake finds the pair of them and tells Avon that Gan got away from Cally, which elicits an understandable and enjoyable bit of sarcasm.
With Gan safely caged again, the crew deal with the problem of the “gravitational vortex” by flying straight into it at top speed. Creative. Well, we need to advance the plot and we’ve taken enough time on the forbidden zone. It’s time to get Gan to a doctor. And that doctor is… no, it can’t be… yes it is!
Julian Glover!!! Cameo time for the man who is in literally everything. He’s up there with Alan Dale and Zeljko Ivanek as a man with credits in just about everything ever made.
After Mr Glover accompanies Blake to the Liberator, there follows a little gem of dialogue between Avon and Vila. These little moments are what make the series for me. Avon asks him why he stays with Blake and Vila says it’s because he likes him. Avon just smiles and says that isn’t a good enough reason. The smile is the key to Avon’s complexity and brilliance as a character. It’s not a mocking smile. It tells us that he likes Blake too and wishes that that was enough of a reason for him. Bless him. Avon isn’t all bad. Although I wonder why he’s so keen to go over to the space lab.
Dr Glover is such a master of neurosurgery that he can tell by looking at the back of Gan’s head that he is in critical condition. While this is going on, his assistant is brought on board and proceeds to leer at the female crew. Jenna manages to cut him down to size in an instant (the dialogue has gone up a notch in the last few minutes).
Assistant – I like girls with a sense of humour.
Jenna – Yes, I can see how that would be an advantage.
Dr Glover has figured out who they are by now and things don’t look good. He’s straight on the phone to the nearest Federation base. That’s quite a powerful phone he’s got, then. That gives them three hours before the pursuit ships arrive so all he needs to do is stall the operation.
Meanwhile, Avon learns of the deception and is offered a safe place to stay if he lets the others suffer whatever fate awaits them. Avon can’t do it though and goes back to the Liberator. Vila and he threaten Dr Glover and force him to start the operation but he’s still a bit too arrogant until Blake coldly threatens to destroy his hands if he doesn’t do it. That’s actually icy cold.
All works out and Blake and the crew depart, but not without Dr Glover going nuts back on the space lab, killing the administrator. He soon gets his comeuppance, however, as a loose plasma bolt fired by a pursuit ship hits the space lab and destroys it. I’m glad he got his just desserts and all, but can’t help wondering how many neutral scientists were working on that station and just got vaporised.
Gan is back on his feet and not trying to kill anyone anymore. No harm, no foul. We can all laugh about how you tried to kill us all and no-one is worried about it happening again.
I really enjoyed this episode, especially the second half. At first, I thought Julian Glover was playing against type as someone helpful, but it turned out he was playing exactly to type as a sly weasel. If anyone can let me know a film or TV programme in which Julian Glover plays a really nice person, please let me know in the comments section. I can’t seem to think of any. This episode also really reminded me of the Firefly episode, Ariel, in which the crew risk everything to get a medical procedure for someone who’s getting violent, only to be almost caught because of a double cross. I’m sure there are more examples of this “must get the person to medical care at own risk and fear of capture” theme but it’s late and I’ll let you think of those for me. Let me know in the comments section if you can think of any.
Thanks for reading,