Blake’s 7 – Terminal

Terminal by Terry Nation

‘Terminal’ is associated with death and can be where a journey ends, so I was curious about this episode’s title. The reveal that is was simply a planet’s name was initially underwhelming. But overall ‘terminal’ stands for an endpoint and this was Blake’s 7‘s most emotional one yet.

Avon’s deception

Avon’s change of character was immediately intriguing, as he sat holed up on the Liberator flight deck, refusing to say where they were going. Despite Avon still being a private person, I’ve been impressed with his democratic attitude to their chosen course this series – I’ve basically been pleased that he hasn’t taken on the aspect of Blake that often frustrated me most. I was a little annoyed that Avon seemed to have suddenly changed yet reasoned that it must be something important.

In retrospect, knowing where this story goes, I do wish this had not been so out of character. How long had Avon been leading the ship towards Terminal – most of the series perhaps? Including this as an arc feels a missed opportunity; it would have been easy to slip in odd moments that showed Avon being secretive or acting suspiciously. His hunt for Shrinker could have acted as a red herring when we reached Children of Auron, with the audience presuming that this had been the reason for the deception, only for it then to continue after Rumours of Death.

It has been frustrating sometimes that Avon hasn’t been able to rise to Tarrant’s gobshiting. The realisation that Avon was not going to back down this time, that their journey was not up for debate, was wonderful. I enjoyed the direction as silence fell and we cut to show Avon’s gun pointing at Tarrant. He didn’t put it away afterwards, which added to the uncertain, threatening atmosphere. From now on, I was intently watching Paul Darrow.

Avon pointing a transparent gun at Tarrant

Tarrant also drew a gun on Vila in Moloch, and it was hard to judge if he really meant it. It’s a little concerning to see this happening among the crew again. Although I would love us to be rid of Tarrant, this doesn’t seem the best way. I worry about what would happen if the crew all start turning on one another so seriously – as Tarrant says later: “We’ve survived because we’ve worked as a team.”

When they arrived at Terminal, the scene as Avon prepares to leave emphasised the crew’s loyalty to him, as they each have a chance to appeal to him. Vila’s attempts struck me most as he assures Avon, “Look, you don’t have to give reasons. You don’t even have to explain. Whatever it is, we’ll back you up.” As I stared at Avon, I realised that that was part of the problem – he knows they trust him. Interestingly, none of them – not even Tarrant – accuse Avon of being up to anything immoral. It struck me that Avon really has filled Blake’s place now, with a crew that would support him in almost anything.

Dayna, Vila, Avon, Cally and Tarrant at the teleport bay

The significance of Avon’s mission felt confirmed when he cooly told everyone: “I don’t want you with me. I don’t want you following me. Understand this: anyone who does follow me, I’ll kill them.” Avon’s mission must be dangerous and serious – either he couldn’t risk a single thing going wrong or killing anyone who followed would be a mercy for them. The mystery deepened as Avon said it was nothing to do with any of the others. My mind flicked back to Anna Grant – could this be something else from Avon’s past?

Terminal

Although the landscape on Terminal reminded me of that in Volcano, its atmosphere was immediately far grimmer as the wind flying at Avon looked fierce. Throughout much of the time on Terminal, the incidental music uses a simple drum beat that I found marvellously effective at maintaining the tension of the unknown. It kept me on edge both during Avon’s travel across the surface and while he explored the underground complex.

Avon grimacing against the wind, speaking into his teleport bracelet

Blake’s back!

Once Avon had been knocked-out in the complex and we saw him on that table, the cut to the next scene in a cell threw me. It didn’t add up, his escape seemed too easy and I wasn’t sure if what I was watching was real or not. Was Avon drugged? Was this some type of induced dream? Was he now in a replica complex elsewhere? I remained on edge.

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My mouth dropped open when I saw Blake and I stared, agape and wide-eyed, throughout much of the scene between him and Avon. Despite attempting to reason that this may not be real, once Avon was speaking to Blake, it looked real and felt real. How could this not all be real?

A bearded Blake lying down, hooked up to wires, staring up at Avon

Their meeting was more convivial than I expected, and I was surprised that Avon appeared to have been tempted there by money. But I don’t think that was all of it. I thought Avon would feel free of Blake once he was gone from the Liberator, yet that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Even with Blake’s words to Avon at the end of Star One (“I have always trusted you…”), I still wouldn’t have expected him to reach out to share a load of money. Funding a rebellion does not come cheap – surely Blake had better ways to dispose of it.

Who is Avon?

After discovering that Avon had planned to come to meet Blake, I viewed his concealment of this differently. Blake had always placed everyone at risk and reasoned that if it was a risk he was willing to take then everyone else would too. It must have seemed likely to Avon that wherever Blake was leading him, there could be some unknown danger. Yet I realise I am being generous to Avon because I don’t want to believe the other possibility, which is that he planned to do as Servalan suggested and split the money only with Blake. I found it hard to judge the tone during his conversation with Servalan.

Avon has gone from being a careful and selfish high-grade thief to a leader who cares for his crew. I’ve come to associate him with the latter qualities more than the former, perhaps forgetting that he could still be both.

My idealised view of Avon is saved by his choice to tell Vila to get the Liberator out of there, rather than hand it to Servalan, and knowing it will mean sacrificing himself to save everyone else. Avon may have risked his life before, but I don’t think he’s ever come so close to giving it up outright for his friends.

Is Blake dead?

There is a superb, tiny moment after Avon is led into Servalan’s chamber, shortly after coming back around. Still woozy, as he sits down, the picture goes out of focus for a split second. It’s a perfect visual representation of his experience and so slight that, but for the timing, I would probably have overlooked it.

Servalan’s declaration that Blake was dead shocked me because I’ve never thought it even a possibility. In Aftermath, he appeared to have escaped the Liberator in good time. I then presumed that he was continuing his rebellious crusade elsewhere in the universe, linking up with various resistance groups like the one we saw in Pressure Point. I have hoped for this too because I want there to be people out there planning the Federation’s total downfall – I just don’t think that it should be people that Blake has pressured into it.

I remain unsure whether I believe Servalan. Why would she lie? Well, why wouldn’t she tell them he’s dead? She’s left them on a grim and remote planet with slim chances of escape. Blake is the only person they know and trust enough who might come to their rescue – Avon’s essentially just proven that by his own journey. It would suit Servalan to leave them crushed of any hope.

Servalan smiling at Avon

I found Jacqueline Pearce’s performance strange here though; I thought she should be delighted, gloating about this. Additionally, if Blake is dead, surely it would be a tremendous coup for the Federation to be able to declare Blake dead? Broadcast the news to every corner of the universe: Blake is dead – give up all hope and surrender to the Federation’s might!

I think we just lost our ship

I had become pretty attached to the Liberator; I have come to care about it as much as any member of the crew – and probably more than a couple of them. It was initially such a safe, protective home that any invasions horrified me throughout Series A and B, while as they became more common, I couldn’t accept the inevitability without some twinge of anger – how dare anyone try to take our Liberator from us. Losing it was always going to hurt.

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After everything the Liberator has been through and how close we’ve come to losing it before, it felt a little unfair that its downfall came from a mysterious virus. I’m going to miss its model shots; I’ve regularly rewound the DVD to admire their beauty a little longer, so it was a glorious, if heart-wrenching, moment watching the ship get blown to bits. The destruction of the interior sets was also amazing – I loved the guard screaming and sliding away. Although I was desperately sad to see the Liberator go, this was offset slightly, knowing that the Federation had never destroyed it and that Servalan never got to make use of it!

Just a machine

I spent Series A frustrated and often livid with Zen but discovering the ship’s true origins did provide more understanding and I could be more forgiving. I scoffed when Blake first declared Zen as one of their seven, but I had eventually regarded Zen as one of them. I became fond of him. Nonetheless, as the virus started taking over the ship I was concerned, so his “unidentified” and “unconfirmed” comments had me back screaming, ‘Why are you so utterly useless, Zen?’

I soon felt horribly guilty when I saw the seriousness of the situation. The end was so drawn out as we heard Zen’s voice start to go and it tore at me. Cutting back to the ship at one point, Vila’s sad face starred up at Zen’s screen and I realised this was really it. I felt like welling up as Zen said, “I have failed you. I am sorry.” Oh, Zen!

The end?

Terminal has been one of my favourite episodes from this series. Like several episodes in Series C, it provided the opportunity to focus on one character or actor, and I’d be happy to see more of these episodes in Series D.

Yet even without these, I have found the balance between the characters’ roles much better. Jenna and Cally were so poorly served in Series B so it was a delight to see Cally’s character developed. Without the two ladies being confined to the Liberator’s teleport bay, Vila has often been the one left behind instead. However, his conversations and occasional problem-solving with Orac have sometimes still enabled him to be involved in an episode. I do rather enjoy these moments and it led to us seeing more of Orac’s personality, so I was relieved when Vila managed to grab Orac form the Liberator.

Once it became apparent that Blake would not be reappearing, I didn’t think I would miss him, but I have. I’ve realised how much I enjoyed my up-and-down relationship with him. There is still plenty going on without Blake, yet he was an interesting character and there seemed more to explore. It would have been great to see how his relationship with Avon developed after Star One.

I don’t especially want Blake back now though because there isn’t anywhere for him to fit in, whereas I’m still holding out hope of seeing Travis again. I’ve immensely missed Travis. After largely appearing as a nasty nightmare in Series A, I became increasingly fascinated by him during Series B. I loved watching the character change and his relationship with Servalan proved wonderfully engaging. It started to feel like our heroes had two villains to contend with separately, rather than just one protected by another. In the final episodes of Series B, there seemed potential for Avon to have his own strong rivalry with Travis, so that could have developed. I discussed the problems of Servalan as a lone villain after Death-Watch and it has definitely felt like the series is missing something.

Even without Travis, I’d ideally like to see less of Servalan in future, with the series employing quality over quantity – I certainly expect to see her again. Though I currently can’t fathom how – where could she have teleported to? – I imagine her defiantly dragging herself out of a wreck somewhere.

Series C felt completely different to what had come before so I’m curious what Series D might bring. For a start, how do they get out of this mess?

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Comments

  1. Andrew P

    These are such brilliant blogs to read and – as always – I’m delighted to see somebody getting such great entertainment and enjoyment out of the same story beats as I did some 40 years later!

    “Terminal” really felt like it *was* the end in 1980. Right up to the closing continuity announcement. It had this doom-laden feel – this dark gravitas right from the start. Even before the Liberator started getting a bit gooey. By the end of the show with Blake dead, the Liberator – and therefore Zen – destroyed, probably taking Servalan with it… it was so clearly the end of the series…

    Love your ruminations about Avon’s developing character. The groundwork of Series A really does develop so brilliantly through Series B and C doesn’t it?

    So many of the moments you mention above continue to pack a punch with me all these decades later. I am so glad that this series still excites people and encourages them to set down their thoughts as effectively as this.

    All the best

    Andrew

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