Team BlakeThey’re fighting for their lives.Who isn’t?
We are Blake’s 7 at last! Having seven lead characters in each episode won’t always work. As previous episodes have already been doing, it is easier to split them up and take it in turns to go down to the planet each week. I’ll say one thing for Blake, as a leader he isn’t shy about getting his hands dirty as in The Web he heads down to this week’s planet alone.
One great aspect of the series so far is that there is no gradual meandering towards the plot – we’re straight into it within the opening 10 minutes of each episode. Following the introductory ones, this is only the second ‘proper’ episode so I will be interested to see if that continues. Also, I think Terry Nation is the only writer on this first series, so I’m wondering if other writers would take a different approach.
At the start of The Web Cally has been sabotaging The Liberator. Endangering their lives is not the best way to start life with some new friends. Avon is conducting experiments on part of the ship and as she asks technical questions, they exchange a glance that makes me think there could be some spark between them, which I’m willing to dismiss as soon as we discover she was possessed. It’s for the best; I don’t think I’m ready for Avon the Romantic. New Romantic, yes – he’d comfortably rock the outfits and eyeliner – but we’re a few years too early for that anyway.
Cally hasn’t exactly been subtle so the crew quickly figure out who is responsible and that there is a bomb on board. Blake nearly blows himself up but Avon dives and knocks him out the way of the explosion. The first thing Blake says is, “Why?” Avon looks as stunned as him and claims it was an automatic reaction. The rest of the crew would have been surprised as well because let’s face it – Avon hasn’t made any effort whatsoever to hide his antagonism towards Blake. Only a few scenes before he’d said, “Blake won’t always be making the decisions,” before flashing a wonderful wicked grin. I’m not sure whether Avon is actively scheming or is just planning to bide his time.
The Liberator ends up in a web of material in space, unable to get out. Something begins to speak through Jenna and tells them to land on a nearby planet to provide “assistance”. I thought the lip syncing with Jenna was pretty well done and the voice was bloody creepy.
If it’s the sort of thing you like, it should be noted that we start this episode with Gareth Thomas flashing his torso. Blake covers up his bare torso with a knitted green shirt. Within a few scenes he appears to have added a waistcoat-type thing with short leather sleeves. Finally, when he heads down to the planet he’s put a coat on.
Blake lands on a planet in the middle of a forest. As he works his way through there are several large white balloons that immediately made me think of Rover from The Prisoner, although the Blake’s 7 ones are slightly smaller. I feel like Blake the escapee and rebel would get on well with Number Six.
The planet is home to little creatures who speak in a high-pitched tone. Their skin is greenish, partly smooth, with parts looking like leaves. They sound like child actors when they are making noises and I wonder whether in the costumes they are, but they must be dubbed when they speak as they then sound different. As Blake heads for a building, one approaches him, saying, “Help us” but before he has chance a man in silver steps out of the building and shocks it. Blake looks stunned as he’s ushered inside.
He’s introduced to a woman in silver as well and we learn that the creatures are called Decimas, have been genetically engineered and become increasingly aggressive. The latest generation especially has gone a bit rogue. These two, Novara and Geela, show no emotion about the experiments they are doing and so it is little surprise to discover that they too were genetically engineered.
Novara and Geela are decked out in silver jumpsuits made of what looks like tin foil, wrapped in what I’m absolutely certain is cling film. I remain undecided whether their wellies were nicked from redundant Cybermen. Combined with coiffed silver hair and a shit-ton of eye makeup, the pair of them look like they’ve stepped fresh out of a 1980s’ music video. As this went out in 1978, I suppose that just about makes it futuristic.
They need some power in the form of cylinder-shaped battery things and Blake gets in touch with The Liberator to ask Avon to bring some. However, he’s clearly hesitant when he discovers they are going to use the power to destroy the Decimas. While Novara and Geela claim the Decimas are unintelligent life, the episode makes it plain that this isn’t true. Hearing noise from outside, Blake looks out a window to see a crowd gathered around the Decima that Novara put down earlier. One of the Decimas is crying.
The Web is an interesting portrayal of the risks of attempting to genetically-engineer life. The Decimas continue to be regarded as primitive creatures, despite the fact that Novara and Geela describe them as having had several generations. They have developed beyond what was intended for the experiments and are now able to organise themselves enough to attack Novara and Geela’s base, where they keep some of the Decimas contained for experiments.
It is a nice twist that Novara and Geela themselves are also experiments. They have no emotional range and speak very factually and logically about what they are doing. It must have seemed the ideal way to breed a couple of scientists. But it proves to be their undoing. The scientists’ belief that unintelligent or primitive life would have no emotions means they cannot understand the bleeding obvious – the Decimas are angry and upset because their species is being tortured and killed.
It is ironic that the Decimas’ behaviour is dismissed as aggression as this is what Novara turns to when Blake and Avon attempt to avoid handing over the power packs. He uses a stick to shock Avon’s hand, telling them, “Understand your lives are totally unimportant to us.” The scientists’ lack of emotional capacity and therefore lack of any empathy or compassion for others means that they fail to see the advantages of having Blake and Avon’s support against the Decimas. All their threats, to both the Decimas and The Liberator’s crew, are physical and therefore I suppose the only emotion they do understand is the most primitive one of all – fear.
At the episode’s climax, the Decimas manage to get into the base. The creatures go utterly mental during this attack and the screeching – oh my god the screeching – is horrendous. It goes on forever. They smash the place apart, including a bobbing head on a body in red liquid that was Novara and Geela’s controller. The attack does turn rather grim. Novara and Geela become mere shrunken bodies and skulls. The Decimas wade in and start kicking one of the heads around like a football.
It’s Avon’s only encounter with the Decimas and he gestures to them as they wreak havoc, saying, “These are what you wanted it to protect?” Blake snaps back, “They’re fighting for their lives.” “Who isn’t?” responds Avon. It’s the first time I think I’ve been on Blake’s side instead of Avon’s. With Blake we’ve seen what the Decimas have been through and Avon’s remarks seem callous.
While I’ve been fairly unimpressed with the fashion choices of the Blake’s 7 universe up to now, I love the Liberator raincoats worn by Blake and Avon in this episode. Blake’s consists of a couple of shades of green, while Avon’s is the same in blue and both have white ‘V’ shaped piping on the front and back (It’s nice to know Avon can wear something that isn’t a shade of grey). The coats seem practical and while it’s entirely subjective, I think they look fantastic and are possibly the best fashion choices in the show. I also like the idea that The Liberator has a store of uniform outfits.
An added bonus to the raincoats was that they caused me to cry out, “BLAKE HAS A UTILITY BELT!” and later, “AVON HAS ONE TOO!” Blake’s probably contains revolutionary bombs and reviving salts while Avon’s pocket has a box of poison with ‘Blake’s medicine’ written on it.
I enjoyed the plot of The Web and thought it was an interesting idea to explore. I was worried Blake’s 7 could end up a tad too science-fiction-y for me and I would get bored in jargon, but that’s certainly not been the case so far. It is also good to see that the programme’s episodes don’t always need to centre around being chased by and/or trying to attack the Federation.
Although I’ve spent the last few episodes wanting to see more from other characters, I thought The Web was a great one to have Blake on his own. With several people there we would have had plenty of moral discussion about how wrong the scientists are, when it actually works much better mostly left unsaid. Prior to Blake heading down to the planet, we do spend a good chunk of the episode on The Liberator. I worry I may get impatient with wanting them to get on with the story and get out onto this week’s location. Yet as stated above, so far the series has been fantastic at just getting on with the story.