Star One is still vying in my affections for Best Episode So Far and I am fairly sure Aftermath didn’t answer a single question I had at the end of it. Once again though, I didn’t care because Aftermath has instead given us an interesting setup for a series that looks vastly different from the last couple.
I liked the new title sequence as its effects seem slightly more modern but I’ve grown hugely fond of the original, adoring the visuals almost as much as the theme, so I will miss it. Following this, a couple of papier-mâché models couldn’t dampen my joy during the space battle as the explosions were superb. It’s great when we can jump straight into the action and this situation felt unique because the series has never left us on such a clear cliffhanger before.
Do we need the Liberator?
I was sure the Liberator was gone. The episode’s early shots had convinced me as we never saw anyone on the flight deck: all the shots were empty, and I wondered if the production was using old or unused shots from previous series because they had got rid of the set. On the beach, I felt a pang of sadness when Avon picked up then chucked aside his gun, realising it was useless without the Liberator to recharge it – I have loved the design of those weapons.
A weakness in this plotline is that taking away the Liberator then easily giving it back seemed like cheating. It would have been better to tell us that the Liberator might be failing. I spent the episode wondering how Avon was going to get off the planet when the episode should have made me worry whether the Liberator was going to survive.
Where is everyone?
I spent most of Aftermath feeling anxious – I wanted to know what had happened to the rest of the crew! “Jenna’s gone with Blake,” Cally told Avon as they were hurrying to escape the Liberator. Gone where? The ship was failing – where else could they go? Then we lost Cally and Vila too. Even after Avon managed to contact Zen, I still only knew about Jenna. A hospital ship may sound safe enough, but I remained a tad concerned that Jenna may fall into the Federation’s hands.
I found the details about Blake confusing and couldn’t work out whether he was still on the Liberator or not – it doesn’t look like it. He appears to have deliberately left things in a state that means he cannot be traced – a more thorough disappearance than his one during Trial. I wonder if they will try a code word again to see if he has left another video message?
The end of the cult of Blake
I would not have expected to be happy with an episode that only really featured one member of the crew, but by the end, it had become apparent that Aftermath is setting up a series that will have Avon as the main lead.
Last series established a ‘cult of Blake’, where his name represented the actions of the Liberator crew; I’ve compared Blake to Robin Hood a couple of times but suddenly I’ve got a lot more sympathy for all those uncredited Merry Men. This, combined with his natural assumption of leadership, ensured it was Blake who the natives turned to when the Liberator visited anywhere.
The cult of Blake is still echoing in Aftermath with Mellanby saying, “Blake? You were with Blake? […]Blake and the Liberator? I’ve been hearing reports for the last couple of years! You were magnificent!” Avon’s reply is telling: “Not from where I was sitting.” Avon has never been motivated in the same way as Blake and in Star One he had been determined to end his involvement in fighting the Federation.
Setting up the future
Star One is gone and so has the alien threat. The Federation is severely weakened. Avon’s got what he wanted – he just needs to outrun Servalan. I had expected Series B to see Servalan chasing the Liberator to try to get Orac and it seems like Series C could involve a similar plotline. Yet wouldn’t outrunning her be easier if the Federation was really, truly defeated? Or if Avon simply killed Servalan? Unlike Blake with Travis, I wouldn’t expect Avon to wait until his life depended on it to kill Servalan.
Series B had incrementally created real antagonism between Avon and Travis, but Servalan has often operated from a distance and with Travis gone/dead/in a parallel universe, it makes sense to increase the animosity between Avon and Servalan. If Avon is stepping in to replace Blake, this new series has a lot to do.
The scenes between Avon and Servalan were my favourites in the episode. It was wonderful to watch two such compelling actors for a decent length of time and a lovely insight into where the series might head.
Avon doubts they are alike but I am unsure why as Servalan’s summary of, “You are ambitious, ruthless, you want power and you never let conscience stand in the way of achieving it,” is close – I might have substituted power for money, but then he did fancy taking control of Star One. However, Avon’s response, “You overestimate me,” is accurate, something I realised when I understood that I had too.
“It’s a great pity that you and I have always been on opposite sides, Servalan,” Avon says, and until recently I wouldn’t have put it past him to change sides. Servalan describes him as “infinitely corruptible” but Avon almost immediately proves her wrong when he wisely turns down her offer of ruling the galaxy together. As they went in for that kiss, with the atmosphere the scene had built up, I was still wondering if Avon would join her for a chance at everything.
Regardless of the logic of that particular moment, I don’t believe Avon is all that ruthless anymore – he just doesn’t act like the same person that nearly abandoned everyone on Horizon. Avon is presented in a more human, mortal way: he’s knocked unconscious; his body can’t withstand the g-force in the escape pod; he remains weak after the landing; he is alone and gets into plenty of physical fights; his emotions have rarely seemed so apparent, as he is concerned about his friends throughout the episode and is impatient and anxious while trying to contact Zen. It felt like Servalan had caught him off-guard and in a rare, vulnerable moment when she walked in. Over time I began to think Travis had an advantage over Blake because he was prepared to act so remorselessly, and I am concerned that Servalan has the same over Avon.
Dayna: the action woman Blake’s 7 deserves
I had seen later publicity photos featuring a couple of new people, so I recognised Dayna without knowing her name and realised she would probably be coming with Avon at the end of Aftermath.
I immediately liked Dayna because she was an action woman. We meet her when she shoots someone in the back using a bow and arrow: she looks incredible. She tells Avon, “Without danger, there’s no pleasure,” and I was already thinking: you’re going to love life with our lot. I would be so disappointed if this characterisation was dropped because I am hoping the production has learned from the mistakes they made with Jenna.
Blake prevented Avon from killing people several times, so it was an interesting change of position when Avon stopped Dayna murdering a Saren. Blake’s reasonings were always hanging by a thread I felt, while here Avon’s is in keeping with his character as he deduces it will only bring reprisals from the other Sarens. I’ve considered Avon a keen shooter, but Dayna is something else and has clearly been itching for more action. Blake did alright, but Avon always appeared more able when it came to hand-to-hand combat. It will be great to have someone else equally competent in their skills and who also seems to enjoy a good fight.
It was almost inevitable that Dayna’s father, Mellanby, had to get killed. The episode needs a reason for her to leave the planet and a strong reason for her to hate Servalan, which will presumably motivate her from now on because she was pretty apathetic about the Federation in a ‘live and let live’ way. The grim fate of her sister cements it (The Keeper should take note: THAT is how you show “they’re a cruel lot on Goth”).
Avon’s reaction following the discovery of both bodies ensures we see the man we have known. His line to Dayna on Mellanby, “He got away from here after all,” is misjudged and reminded me of his inappropriate remarks after the Dreamer’s death in Shadow. Though in Shadow the effect was intentional, I don’t think he understood the impact of his quip here until afterwards; maybe that is why he says nothing when they find Dayna’s sister and instead stands to stare, blankly, allowing her those moments.
I’m all in favour of healthy curiosity
Blake’s 7 hasn’t really done intimacy. It’s done sexy and, while I’d argue that there has been something from both sexes, in a very 1970s’ way, the show has leaned more towards ‘something for the dads’. Dayna’s kiss was mildly surprising, yet it came across as cheeky flirting, so although it will stay in the back of my mind, I don’t expect much to come from it. Regardless of what fan fiction may want to imagine (I’m told), personally, I think things would quickly get complicated if there was a free for all of snogging on the Liberator.
While it had been a long time since the first kiss between people of different races on British television, the moment left me curious how it would have been received in 1980. I know racism was still a lot more prominent than today but I wasn’t sure just how deep that went throughout the general population. Starting in 1983, the British Social Attitudes survey asked people if they would mind if a close relative married a black or Asian person. 57% of people answered “a little” or “a lot” for the former, with 51% for the latter. The most recent statistics I can find show that by 2013 this had fallen to 22% and 21% respectively. It’s certainly an indication that Avon and Dayna would have raised a few eyebrows across the country, at the very least.
I was expecting this episode to feel like more of a Part Two to Star One, yet it functions fantastically as a separate episode. Partly, its because there is an awful lot going on: the Liberator seems to be gone, we have lost everyone, Servalan turns up, there’s some action with the Sarens in a totally new type of location (surely this isn’t the end of Blake’s 7‘s visits to quarries and forests?), and then – BASE UNDER THE SEA.
As a series opener, Aftermath is also a decent introduction for new viewers: we are drawn in with a swift space battle – long enough to indulge but short enough to avoid boredom – then spend most of the episode following a single regular character, learn about their personality, meet their new friend, get to know the main baddie and understand their relationship – all with a bit of plot that offers some action. Aftermath works as a very character-driven episode and it’s an impressive feat to provide something extraordinary for the regular audience, while also reinventing the series in a way that provides an accessible entry point for a new one.
I don’t want to make too many assumptions yet about what is different about this series. I do think Aftermath offers a suitable link to the last one though as it conveys that no one is safe in this world: here are three lead characters – now two of them are missing; have an exposition scene with two Federation guards setting everything up – oh, they’ve both been killed; meet Dayna’s father and sister – we will brutally murder them.
At the start of the last series, I explained what spoilers I had encountered for Blake’s 7, which didn’t actually have any bearing on my viewing of Series B but already has a tad for Series C.
I have known that Jenna, Cally and Blake all disappear at some point. Jenna is on the hospital ship and as far as I’m concerned that’s it for her. I’m not so sure about Cally or Blake and I can’t figure out whether we will see either of them again. I hope so.
The photos I had seen meant I recognised Dayna. Aftermath’s credits confirmed that the man on the Liberator at the end of the episode is Tarrant, whose name I had seen with his photo before. If anything, this has left me even more confused though – who is he? What is he doing on the Liberator if he’s a Federation officer? Is he or has he stolen the uniform?
I was so keen to press on with Aftermath after Star One’s cliffhanger. But although that was exciting, Aftermath has opened up such a huge number of questions about characters and where this new series will be heading that it has made me want to press on even more than Star One’s ending did.