I approached Power with a degree of trepidation as I had been frustrated by Ben Steed’s previous Blake’s 7 scripts. It had been reassuring to learn from other viewers that I was not alone, but I was also informed that I had another of his stories to come in Series D. Blake’s 7 Monthly delivered a nasty blow when I found out it would be episode two. I do try to maintain a positive outlook, so as I settled in for Power I reasoned that, as with Moloch, I at least knew what I was letting myself in for this time.
I adore seeing model work in Blake’s 7 – or in any show in fact. I knew I was going to miss seeing the Liberator in action, but already I have practically drooled over Scorpio. Watching Rescue, I was open-mouthed when we saw the ship arriving on Xenon because it looked absolutely stunning. I couldn’t believe I was seeing this in Blake’s 7 – it looked more like modern CGI yet I know it must be model work. I was excited to see the take-off in Power too. The lights on the model as well as the green set lighting enhance it beautifully and create a wonderful atmosphere for the cave-like complex. I was impressed and am looking forward to seeing this again and again, hopefully.
I’m Only Sleeping
Watching Power, I began to feel very sorry for Avon, who is knocked unconscious three times in an episode that takes place across a single day. Even serially KO’d men like Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)’s Jeff and the eponymous Man in a Suitcase usually only saw stars once per episode. Poor Avon’s head must have been throbbing by the time they boarded Scorpio.
Avon’s first fall is offscreen and we must presume he was overwhelmed by numerous Hommik men wielding weapons. The next two are surprise hits from behind. Number two stood out a little when Avon receives a blow after his fight with Gunn-Sar. This one sounds nasty, Paul Darrow eliciting a loud, “Ough!” Again surrounded by Hommiks, it did seem uncharacteristic for him to be caught off-guard because I am used to seeing Avon highly aware in such situations. However, perhaps we can say he’s suffering from a touch of concussion from his first hit. As for the third one, oh please just come up with a different plot device (even if I did find the floating keyboard amusing)!
With Avon off by himself, it seemed like this might provide the opportunity of a big episode for him. Instead, we break with the convention of the crew pairing up to explore. In earlier series, the Liberator crew were strict with one another and tried not to let anyone leave the ship alone when investigating somewhere new. If they do break this rule, it doesn’t tend to end well. After the recent events on Terminal, you would hope Avon might have thought this through a little more. I wonder if his stubbornness has simply persisted.
What the plot
At first, I felt the Hommicks were going to be rather predictable. There were similarities to Jarvik in The Harvest of Kairos and the rebellious Federation officers in Moloch, so I think I’ve had enough of Ben Steed’s primitive blokes now. I was also getting flashbacks to the cavemen in The Keeper, yet the history of Xenon’s population eventually proved far more interesting to uncover compared to what we saw on Goth.
However, for ages, it seemed like little was progressing as Avon lay around unconscious and/or locked up, while Vila met Pella. Even once it was established that the others needed to go after Avon, it never felt like they came close to rescuing him. I struggled to see how the Seskas could be connected to anything Avon was experiencing with the Hommiks at first, while Vila’s attempts to get through Dorian’s door also seemed like an isolated side plot. I think it might have helped if we had seen some of Avon’s conversation with Orac before he went outside so there was something more to keep us intrigued.
Nonetheless, I liked the clash of primitive men and advanced technology. I’m used to seeing this emerge as alien and the reveal didn’t feel too obvious. Once things began to fall into place and the connections became evident, I started to find the episode satisfying. I particularly liked the recording of the news broadcast as a further link with the past and found it effective.
During Rescue, I assumed and expected the rest of the planet to be empty, so it was intriguing to discover that Dorian had had dealings with the Seskas. The continuity in Blake’s 7 has been limited and I thought we would never find out anything more about Dorian because why should we? That was last episode and he’s dead!
Ideally, there might have been some hints in Rescue about the planet’s population and a mention of Dorian’s heavily defended door. It’s evident that there was some planning and direction behind the scenes for the episodes to be linked, but not quite the capacity to weave everything perfectly. It works well enough though and, as I wasn’t expecting any continuation, if these things had appeared in Rescue, I’d have felt unsatisfied when they weren’t explored.
If there was little for me to say about Soolin in Rescue, I’ve got even less to add for Power. It’s a little odd to have Soolin disappear for most of the episode before reappearing. Yet it is convenient because while Avon is off losing brain cells Vila gets to explore the door and Dayna challenges Gunn-Sar to a fight, but Tarrant doesn’t have a great deal to do. This is not a plot with room to introduce another character and it seems likely that it was planned before this became a necessity for the series.
*sigh* Ben Steed’s sexism feels repetitive by now and its predictability does sometimes make things dull. I knew he was never going to let Dayna defeat Gunn-Sar alone after she challenged him – someone was going to step in or stop the fight. It’s annoying because I’ve loved it when Dayna has had a chance to join in and demonstrate the skills she was introduced with and this is the second time Steed has knocked Dayna back like this. It’s also a strange choice for the production to go ahead with when Dayna has previously been shown as a fighter skilled enough to take on anyone, regardless of sex or size. Strange, but then they did hire this bloke to write again after not one but two examples of his blatant views.
Steed hammers his point home even more in the scene when Avon overcomes the strength of Pella’s necklace. By that point in the episode, I did think Steed had been doing well by his own low standards, which made it more frustrating. Even when he has given his female characters a device specifically designed to enable them to overcome the strength of physically larger men, it has to have a weakness so that a man can still force his advances on a woman. I’d be curious to see the script’s stage directions here because the way both actors play this scene ensures it doesn’t look as nasty as it could have done; it isn’t an aggressive assault, but then it doesn’t have to be because Pella has been weakened already.
I have to wonder why Ben Steed was asked back. Based on previous form, I’d have voted to obtain the largest possible barge pole. Admittedly, I am not at all objective: The Harvest of Kairos and Moloch were my least favourite episodes of Series C and the only hard decision was which one to place bottom. However, several people have told me they like The Harvest of Kairos (any Moloch fans are staying quiet) and I don’t know how well the stories were received by most viewers, or indeed the production team – based on Blake’s 7‘s previous form, it’s hard to believe there were any ardent feminists around. I’m also aware that Series D may have been slightly rushed together so it seems obvious to use writers already familiar with the programme. There are a couple of others I am hoping to see again.
Despite how much I’ve criticised Ben Steed, I was pleasantly surprised by Power and I think it’s his best contribution to Blake’s 7. I’ve drawn out some specific instances, but overall his sexism felt lighter compared to the previous stories, which certainly helped my enjoyment. I’ve never thought that Ben Steed provided a compelling plot, but I liked this one far more. Moloch was disjointed – things just happened and there was no clear direction leading us through, yet Power felt like there was a story to be a told. Pella is also the first memorable character he’s created who isn’t a creepy sex pest.
It’s great that even without a ship we have been able to have a couple of regular adventures that haven’t struggled with anything too unusual. As the series’ progress effectively felt paused for an episode, I’m still waiting to see more of all the new elements. I loved seeing the marvellous Paul Darrow grin during Avon’s brief conversation with Slave and I’m curious whether Slave really will prove to be a more cooperative computer than either Zen or Orac.
Servalan sits in the back of my mind as I’m curious how she escaped the exploding Liberator. But Blake is also there too now. I was content to forget about him for most of Series C once it became apparent that everyone else had, yet Servalan’s comments in Terminal have made me ponder what he’s up to out there. Maybe he’s even persuaded some other poor sods to risk their lives with him.