It’s been a while again, but I finally got another episode of Blake’s 7 under my belt.
Season 2: Episode 7 – Killer
OK, first thing I notice is that this episode was written by Robert Holmes. Hopefully that means I’m in for something dark. Holmes was the man behind some of the most grim Doctor Who stories that had Mary Whitehouse so angry. To see him on writing duties on this, and in an episode called ‘Killer’, makes me feel very confident.
We open on Liberator with Avon testing Cally on her knowledge of the teleport system. It’s a little condescending and you would think by now they would all have learned to use this, perhaps one of the most vital stystems on board the ship. Cally responds with a devilish look as she transports him and Vila wherever they’re going. It’s as if she’s sent them to somewhere embarrassing to get her own back.
Where are they going? Wow, it’s not a quarry. She’s sent them to the beach. They pick their way along the coast towards a big painting of a dome.
Cally, meanwhile, makes her way to the bridge where she finds Blake and Jenna staring intently at a blinking light. Cally tells us that Avon and Vila are a mile away from the Q Base (I guess that’s the dome thingy). The blinking light turns out to be an old Earth spacecraft, a Wanderer class ship that’s over 600 years old. I’m getting some major Khan/Botany Bay vibes here. Blake and Jenna want to check it out but Cally isn’t so sure. She can sense some life on board that’s making her nervous.
Back on the planet, Avon and Vila hurl themselves to the ground as a rocket or something launches. Zen sees it too. It’s a salvage team being sent from the planet to investigate the old ship. Cally again senses something weird on board..something waiting… something malignant. The writing and the music cues are really fitting in with my expectations of Robert Holmes’ work. I can’t for the life of me remember what this is all about though. From Khan I’m now feeling more Quatermass. Either is a good thing.
Back planetside, Avon and Vila are in a field of buttercups, making a stealthy approach to the dome, which has now graduated from being a painting to being an actual location – Oldbury on Severn Nuclear Power Station to be precise. They plan on finding their way in using a reverse Shawshank method – through a pipe. We then get a look at what’s going on inside. Lots of big costumes at first glance. In one particular office we are introduced to man doing some nice colouring in. He’s drawn a nice picture of his pet locust.
Good to know the Federation or whoever’s base this is approves of mindfulness exercises. Oh my God, it’s Ronald Lacey – the melted-face-Nazi-coathanger guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark. He looks so fresh-faced.
Someone comes to give him the news of the old ship and they talk about a character called Dr Bellfriar who I guess is going to be important. Wow, Ronald Lacey!
By now, Avon and Vila are inside, remarkably clean given the whole pipe situation. They avoid a guard patrol by running across a wide open space which, given all the cameras we were shown in the establishing shots of the place, I’m amazed no-one saw.
All it would have taken was one random person to happen to look out of a window and they would have been busted. They make it inside and into a lift. Lifts don’t seem to have advanced in their mechanics in all those centuries that have passed. Spacecraft have become more and more advanced along with weaponry, but the humble design of a lift remains pretty much the same. If it ain’t broke, I guess. They find a convenient coat rack with some guard uniforms that they can put on to disguise themselves. Good job things like this aren’t controlled in any way. I guess it’s like sneaking into a hospital and disguising yourself as an orderly – that’s so easy according to every movie ever.
Back on Liberator, Blake is getting worried about the derelict ship and what the salvage team from the planet will find on board. Jenna doesn’t seem bothered as they’re Feds but Blake, in a strange turn, seems concerned for their welfare.
Avon and Vila, despite being disguised, decide to kick in an unlocked door in the complex and find Ronald Lacey within, who handles their abrupt entrance with remarkable calm. Turns out he and Avon know each other. Avon wants to get his hands on a crystal which will help him break the Federation’s coded communications. Ronald Lacey explains that it’s not that easy and he can’t get them the crystal anyway but Avon has, as you would expect, a plan. He lets him think it over while he’s squeezing through the door in his massive shoulders. Vila then tries to make a joke at Avon’s expense but gets owned in the following fashion:
Avon – “And you were right. That must be a novel experience for you.”
While they’re sniping at each other, Ronald Lacey is double crossing them, sending word to Federation HQ that they are there. They had to see that coming surely. Avon seems to be friends with the guy but he just showed up out of nowhere and asked him to risk his life. Turns out Avon has a reason to expect his cooperation though, having kept the guy out of jail a while back and is collecting on the debt.
We get a look at Dr Bellfriar at last. He seems like a reasonable man. I’ve fallen into that trap before, though, so I’m not making any predictions here. He’s probably going to end up torturing somebody or a bunny or something before the end.
Avon and Ronald Lacey (his name’s Tynus so I’ll start calling him that) are arguing about how they can get the crystal. To make a short story long, it’s going to involve ten hours of work. Blake doesn’t mind this as he’s all in on the idea of being able to break the Federation codes. He’s got plenty to keep him occupied doing a spot of sleuthing about the mystery ship. Turns out it went missing 700 years ago in some weird Bermuda triangle like place called the ‘darkling zone’ with its crew of 3. Event Horizon, anyone – we won’t need eyes to see.
Blake decides to teleport down to the planet against Jenna’s better judgement but there’s no talking to him. We cut back to the planet to meet the crack recovery squad moving out just before he teleports in.
Good job he didn’t arrive five seconds earlier or he would have been ‘Seth Brundled’ with one of them. Anyway, fortunately that doesn’t happen, Blake finds someone and demands him to ‘take me to your leader’. The leader turns out to be Dr Bellfriar who is hearing a report from the salvage team. They haven’t found any life on board the ship, but they have found a body…
He and Blake have a terribly civilised discussion (maybe Bellfriar is a nice man after all – no, don’t think that. Richard – you know it’s not going to be true) as the crew bring out the body. Meanwhile, Avon and Vila are with Tynus checking out the location of the thingy they want to steal.
The corpse from the ship is on a gurney in the doctor’s office waiting for examination – it’s SO going to wake up. It’s an actual guy in a suit – looks sort of like Clem from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. they wouldn’t do that unless it was going to get up and do stuff. The doctor – a man we’ve not seen before which indicates that he is not long for this world – is signing his own death warrant by persistently keeping his back to the thing and then inexplicably locking himself in the room with it.
Seems OK though as there’s an audience. The body’s got some dog-tags on. Ha! I just saw it blink. Sorry, it’s not like I could do any better. The doctor checks the EEG monitor and it is indeed dead, but then he turns his back again and the machine goes nuts. Everyone’s warning him about it but he’s completely blasé about matters. Sure enough, he gets his neck very gently broken by the thing which has crept up behind him. Afterwards it goes all dead again.
Back in Tynus’ quarters, Vila is playing with the locusts which irritates the life out of Avon, who is working on his plan. The two have a well-written and acted conversation about heroism and self-interest and then we cut back to Blake. He thinks the body thing is programmed in some way and under independent control.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem. Some sort of pathogen is now loose on board the station which has already killed a couple of ‘boys’. Makes you wonder if there was any quarantine procedure for that body on the ship. The dudes pictured above seemed to be well wrapped up for going to the ship, but it would seem that once they brought Clem on board they just did away with any precautions and that may have cost them. Bellfriar puts the base on lockdown (stable door / horse anyone) which gives Avon and Vila a chance to get to work on their plan. There’s chaos around the base (and more people in outlandish outfits) and Tynus’ controlled fire seems to be anything but.
Vila wants Avon to just take the thing but he clearly hasn’t been listening to anything Avon has said in the last half hour. They have to make sure it isn’t missed or it will be useless.
Blake and Bellfriar discover that the body is some sort of Mummy. It’s got embalming fluid running through its veins. They cut to the monitor in sick bay and see the doctor who is now dead, his face half melted off. It was good of him to sit in his chair through what must have been a rather painful exit so we could see him. With this pathogen spreading fast, Blake suggests they shut down the air conditioning to arrest it.
Avon and Vila are in Tynus’ quarters after their heist. Tynus goes off to report something to security (bet you its them he’s reporting) and Vila discovers his treachery. Avon is not happy when he learns of this!
Blake is busy dropping some ancient history about the fiendish Brits and their smallpox blankets for the natives in America. He thinks that the ship has been sent into human-controlled space by an alien civilisation in an attempt to wipe out as many of us as possible. Is this the first clue of the impending invasion from Andromeda that comes at the end of this season? Blake takes this opportunity to get back to the liberator with some ‘data blocks’ for ORAC to analyse. I wish we had data blocks instead of USB sticks. They look really cool. Although I suppose I could just get a USB stick that looked like a data block if I really wanted one.
The orderly running of the station is now completely gone. Everyone’s rushing around in a blind panic trying to escape the virus. Avon and Vila decide to use this in order to steal the crystal they need. In the middle of doing so, Vila is distracted by a man crawling across the floor and is cold-cocked by Tynus, who then confronts Avon. There’s a struggle and Tynus is electrocuted by that really dangerous electrical thing that Avon kept mentioning.
He kept saying how it was really dangerous and how it could kill him easily. I’m just too tired or dumb to have realised it was Chekov’s gun! I was reading about that earlier in the week. So, Ronald Lacey exits after a memorable appearance. I still can’t believe how young he looks in this considering it’s only about three years before Raiders. Avon and Vila escape and Dr Bellfriar contacts the Liberator with information that will save mankind from the virus. Unfortunately, and I must say unexpectedly, he dies before he can give them the formula for the anti-serum. Marvellous bit of writing there. It denies us the heroic ending and leaves a big question mark. Every so often, this show just drops a big example of how ahead of its time it was.
Blake wants to put a plague warning transmitter into orbit around the planet but Avon wants to leave it and let Servalan arrive and die of the plague. I have to say, I agree with Blake on this one. He won’t take the risk of it getting loose and rightly so. We close with a lovely shot of the Liberator making its escape.
That’s the end. A great episode with a couple of well-rounded guest appearances. The duplicitous Tynus and the brave Dr Bellfriar. If there was anything missing from this episode, it was the ladies. Cally and Jenna had pretty much nothing to do, which is a shame. The plague idea was a good one and out of the blue but I feel things could have been slightly more perilous for Avon, Vila and Blake. They never seemed to be in any real danger and that took a little away from what I thought was a good story.
Well, that’s another episode in the bag. Hopefully it wont be as long before I get around to episode 8.
Goodbye everyone. If you’re in the mood to read some more of my rewatches, you can find them here: