“A fool knows everything and nothing.”
I was not keen on The Keeper, though it starts well with setting up the story and some initial action. I am glad that the purpose of Control/Star One is reiterated in the opening scenes as it’s been a while and I feel it’s important that the stakes are emphasised again. We get more details when Travis is dwelling on it with Servalan. The descriptions of the power it offers, with the ability to control enormous and significant aspects of the Federation, reminded me of what I anticipated Orac might offer. I had been thinking more about control in terms of communications and weapons, although that potential has never really materialised. Orac has instead, mostly, become a slightly sassy Google, which is still a significant improvement on the unreliable Zen.
Blowing up Travis
It seems like a while since we had a Liberator side plot and anyone left behind has had little to do. Leaving Avon on board for the entire episode is a first, I think. It makes for a different setup that I felt worked as there is nothing for him to do on Goth.
Instead, we get to see Avon’s hatred of Travis as he takes the decision to blow up Travis’s ship. Cally’s objection to moving out of teleport range for the others seemed odd, as this has frequently happened in the past. However, in fairness, this has normally been to hide from Federation ships, rather than actively move towards any of them. Is this a sign of Avon’s growing confidence because the Liberator has avoided being caught so many times before? Or is it simply evidence of his increased loathing, and perhaps a reasonable fear of Travis?
At the start of Series B, I considered Travis to be Blake’s rival. The Federation and Servalan were after everyone but Blake and Travis had that personal relationship; few of the others had met Travis until Orac. Yet in this series there have been more direct encounters. As in Orac, during Weapon Avon showed a keenness to get rid of both Servalan and Travis. However, the circumstances seemed strategic. Avon again wanted to kill Travis at the end of Hostage. By Gambit, Jenna also thought they should. Like the casino scam in Gambit, The Keeper provides another opportunity to see what Avon will do when Blake isn’t there to stop him.
Blowing up the ship is partly strategic here, yet there does seem more loathing now, with Avon narrowing his eyes in determination as they close in, and telling Cally, “I have no objection to shooting him in the back.” Although Cally obeys Avon in blowing up the ship, she isn’t happy about it, but I was fully on his side as he says, “What did you want me to do – give him a sporting chance?” The Liberator crew need to be willing to play to the same rules as Travis.
It’s easy to say that when I don’t know what else will happen. In the opening scenes, Avon reminds everyone that with Star One under their command, they could control the Federation. I couldn’t decide just how provocative he was being when he considered that, “Blake is afraid that power would corrupt him.”
This theme has come up earlier in Series B, though I’m struggling to place the exact instances. One moment I am now reconsidering is Avon and Blake’s fantastic chat in Pressure Point, where Avon suggested Blake would be the natural leader for a resistance movement based from Earth. Blake’s hesitant, “Perhaps…” threw me as I was unsure why he wouldn’t want that. I pondered at the time whether he was feeling the pressure of leadership, but now I am wondering whether he really does think power would corrupt him – he does say, “That sort of power would corrupt anyone.”
I enjoyed this brief moment in The Keeper and it will be interesting if this is expanded on, either in the next episode or in the future. Blake does easily take the place of a leader, no matter what situation they find themselves in, and if he doesn’t think he should have enormous capabilities, that’s a bit of a conflict with the side of him that wants to push his agenda by leading and deciding most things on the Liberator. If there is to be a successful rebellion against the Federation – whether that’s through destroying Star One or any other means – it’s starting to look as though Blake will have little choice in being at the head of it.
Travis and Servalan
I began wracking my brain to remember how things were left in Gambit because I couldn’t work out how Travis and Servalan could have got to Goth ahead of the Liberator. I don’t think they should have been able to outrun the most powerful ship around and they seem to have been settled in for a while.
And why is Servalan there at all? Only Travis heard about Goth, so he must have told her – why? I can only conclude that he knew he needed to move quickly and had to get hold of a ship. Yet after recent episodes, it seems very strange to see them teamed up like this without any proper onscreen explanation.
I’m unsure what Travis had imagined happening by going back to Servalan. It’s surprising that he suggests them ruling the Federation together and Servalan’s dismissiveness in, “What are you talking about, Travis?” is entirely appropriate. He says, “Don’t you trust me?” and she responds, “No, of course not,” and I’m thinking, ‘Yes! Of course she doesn’t! Why the hell are you trusting her again?!’ It made me wonder if he still felt some element of loyalty to Servalan, but again – why? This plot seems to imply that it was only after Servalan rejected Travis’s idea that he decided to betray her. Based on Travis’s character previously, I am just not convinced of any of this as he would have had to have been incredibly foolish. Servalan may call him “pathetic” but I don’t think he is.
It makes far more sense that Travis planned to await Blake’s arrival and/or run off with the brain print at the first opportunity. Yet he didn’t necessarily need to appear in the episode for that to work – the reveal of the missing brain print would have served as the explanation that he Travis had got there before them and already left.
Servalan has even less reason to be here. Travis could have hired or stolen a ship and the side plot of Avon blowing up a ship could have been removed, or it could just have been another Federation ship. The fact that Avon identifies a Federation pursuit ship as Travis’s is slightly odd anyway because the Liberator crew know that Travis is now out of the Federation command. So if we didn’t need Servalan’s ships, the only reason for her presence is so that we see Travis betray her. It feels like the plot of The Keeper may have needed to achieve certain things before Series B’s final episode, but there are too many flaws in the plotting for me.
They’re a crude lot on Goth
There were large chunks of The Keeper that I did not find interesting or exciting. The studio sets for Goth were an enormous come-down after the flamboyance of Freedom City. CSO has been used sparingly throughout Blake’s 7, so its use to show Jenna and Vila being brought into the caves really stood out and it really does look appalling.
The scenes in Gola’s tent often seemed stilted with no engaging dialogue to grip me. Obviously Gola’s fondness for Jenna is creepy and rapey, but I mainly found him tiresome and predictable. He has plenty to do but he’s just a petulant, raging child and no one rises to it – his sister remains calm and the others bow to his whims.
This episode did provide something more substantial for Jenna. After initially seeming uncertain, her decision to endear herself to the Gola proves most useful. I loved her glance to Vila with an enormous eye roll. Her scene alone with the Gola’s sister was also wonderful, and one of the few this episode that properly intrigued me.
I felt like if anyone was my saviour in some of the duller scenes, it was Vila. His reactions always entertain me and I enjoyed his horror when the Fool’s mimicry gets him sent “below”. There, I could almost feel his pain when Blake chose to leave him in the cell and we had a real Vila-esque line in, “I don’t like the dark – I like to see what I’m scared of.”
If I only had a brain (print)
Despite the description of a “brain print”, the idea of a tiny thing on the back of a pendant was not what I had expected. I’d been imagining a small physical print that could fit in a purse hung around someone’s neck. For once, this is a case of Blake’s 7 predicting future technology to be much smaller.
After initially believing that the old man moaning in the cell must come into the episode somehow, I became as dismissive of him as Blake and Vila when nothing occurred. The Fool describing himself to the old man as “your fool” sent a flag up, but I didn’t work it out.
The most impressive part of The Keeper‘s plot for me was the trigger phrase. The hunt for the print on the various royals had lacked tension, but I liked this twist and thought it a clever idea.
To Star One
This has easily been my least favourite episode of the series. There have been other episodes that I’ve had big issues with but they manage to redeem themselves overall. Yet here, the negatives outweigh the positives – and that’s a first for me with Blake’s 7. I will happily go back and reassess other episodes at some point, but The Keeper‘s greatest crime is that I found so much of it dull.
It also doesn’t help that I was left frustrated trying to figure out Travis and Servalan’s involvement. I’ve never wished they weren’t in an episode before. Their presence feels forced and largely unnecessary. I felt like I was missing pieces of the puzzle though and I’m doubtful whether they will come together in the next episode. Nonetheless, I can’t wait to see what Servalan does now that Travis has tricked her – she said she would kill him.
I am curious what Star One will be like. I’ve imagined something similar to Control on Earth, but I’ve also pictured it housed in a spaceship or satellite of some sort. We have spent so long looking for Star One that I have given little thought to what might happen there. I suppose I hadn’t been expecting the crew to be chasing Travis – I thought it would be the other way around.
I think Blake will definitely destroy Star One. Despite Avon musing on the prospect of all that power, I don’t think he’s willing to go against Blake for it – certainly not when his only support is Vila. I was far more excited for the finale last series because there seemed so much mystery, yet we have always known what Star One is and it feels like we have been heading towards it for an incredibly long time – and longer than I had expected; I originally thought this plotline would only last a few episodes. I hope it’s been worth the wait.