Ask most Blake's 7 fans who the hero of the Liberator was and they'll probably say "Blake". Ask them who the bad
guy on the Liberator was and they'll probably say "Avon".
I'm one of the ones who believe that the reverse
is nearer the truth. At first Blake appeared to be the traditional hero and patriot, the nice guy, the freedom-lover, but
it takes only a brief examination of his conduct and methods to see that it was not as simple as that. While his ends were
entirely honourable, the means could not be justified by the Federation's crimes alone.
Roj Blake was quite an intriguing character,
and like most people I relished his acid rivalry with Avon. But on a moral level I have always had a low opinion of Blake.
Taking into account everything he did
over the three seasons he (genuinely) appeared in, my firm belief is that the Federation were right about him. He was an out-and-out
terrorist, a ruthless fanatic who was happy to deceive and manipulate even his closest companions and to endanger the lives
of any number of people in order to win. What he planned to do at Star One would have meant the deaths of countless millions
of innocent people, a fact he was well aware of. Can you imagine what people would have said of the PLO or the IRA if they'd
caused destruction on such a scale? Look what he threatened to do to Professor Kayn then consider other sci-fi villains like
Darth Vader or the Baron Harkonnen and imagine what everyone would think if they'd threatened to cut off someone's hands for
refusing to co-operate. And by the way, I don't doubt for a minute that Blake would have followed through.
His ideals and courage made for a fine
mask, and they meant that on many levels he was a sympathetic individual, not to mention a born leader. But his obsessive
and domineering style of command were borderline evil. Terrorist or freedom fighter? If there really is a difference between
such people, there's no contest - he was a terrorist.
His exile on Gauda Prime made him less
trusting and even more dangerous. For the sake of many, it might have been for the best that he died when he did. By that
time he'd have made a brutal leader if he'd succeeded in bringing down the Federation.
Most people see Avon as the bad guy
of the Liberator, a man of no apparent morals or conscience, who feels no personal loyalty to his colleagues. For
some that's the fascination of the character, a bad guy fighting for the good guys. But I find the ambiguity of Blake's 7 runs deeper than that, and no one embodies that more than Avon. The truth is that I don't know whether
Avon cares or not. I'm sure he didn't in the early days, but as time has passed that may have changed. For me THAT is
what makes Avon so compelling, you never really know what he's thinking, or if he's good or evil.
He is unswervingly rational, avaricious
and a born survivor, but that's about as clear-cut as things get. He appears to be a ruthless criminal, but is he really?
It's hard to say. The fact that he seems to be so ruthless means that everyone's too scared to defy him and they hardly ever
put him to the test, so we don't know for sure. What I can say with some confidence is that he is not ruthless when he DOESN'T
need to be, and that is in itself more than can be said for some other characters.
I disagree with the frequent suggestion
that he and Servalan are much alike, I think any resemblance between the two characters is fleeting. There is never any doubt
at all about Servalan; she is unhesitatingly evil, uncompromisingly greedy, blatantly dishonest, ruthless to the point of
bloodthirsty, and a shameless coward. None of these criticisms can be applied to Avon with any great conviction.
Avon was not mad at the end of the fourth
season of Blake's 7, just nervously worn out. What he tried to do to Vila on the
shuttle was heartless, but in the final analysis, what else could he do? It was coldly rational, no worse. If Avon were of
the highest moral calibre, maybe he would have thrown himself out of the shuttle to let Vila live, but then I'm not suggesting
he was a hero any more than he was a villain either. As for the infamous showdown on Gauda Prime, well, having been betrayed
by the likes of Anna Grant and Tynus and deceived repeatedly by Servalan, he can be forgiven for believing Blake had sold
him out as well. In his position I think I would have made the same mistake. Would I have killed him though? Well, probably
not. But then if I were to go through what Avon had for the previous five years, and then get caught in a situation like
that, maybe I would.
In his way Avon is brave and honest.
He is never too scared to stand and fight, he always keeps his word and seldom tells a lie. In that regard he is far more
worthy of people's trust than Blake, who would cheerfully deceive his crew and use any form of manipulation he had to in order
to get his way. Although Avon can be dictatorial and deceptive too, it's in a less direct or blatant way - if he's hiding
something he'd rarely lie about it, he'd just make it clear that it's for him to know and for no one else to find out, or
tell the incomplete truth (unless asked directly). Blake on the other hand would lie outright.
I'm trying, somewhat cautiously,
to give more glimpses of Avon's more human side. It's a difficult, even risky, thing to do. Just applying flippant remarks
to his relationship with Hailee Gavisson has led to me receiving objections from certain quarters (see Nico's remarks on the
General Comments page for examples).
Overall Avon does have surprisingly
strong principles. But is he good or bad? I've never claimed to know, and I doubt I ever will. Maybe he's neither. But he
is not as bad as Blake - of that I am sure.
Jenna's history as a smuggler suggested
a very tough woman who was less than choosy about which side of the law she operated on or how nice she was to people. When
she first met Blake in a prison cell on Earth that was exactly the impression she gave. When she realised how genuine Blake
was, she found herself believing in him and was willing to follow him to the end of the Earth (literally, almost). She remained
a forceful individual for a time, capable of taking command when the need arose - for instance at Star One - but for the most
part she was more comfortable taking Blake's orders.
My problem with Jenna is that, after
being really promising in the first season of Blake's 7, she turned into a bit
of a Barbie doll. We ended up learning very little about her, and when she disappeared at the start of the third season I
almost didn't notice. Her character had stagnated horribly, even faded. A waste really, as there was an awful lot of unfulfilled
potential. The writers just didn't try to open up her character, be it through insights into her history or just through giving
her a bit more to do. She ended up as some kind of teleport official endlessly repeating nothing-lines like "They're taking
too long down there," or "They're not answering when I signal them." With gadgets like Orac around, why a human character
should be demoted to such menial roles all the time is beyond me.
With all this unused potential,
you might ask why I didnt follow Neil Blissett's example and bring Jenna back for Blake's Legacy to give her a second
chance. Well, once a slice of bread's gone mouldy, it doesn't matter how much jam you spread on it you won't eat it will you?
What I mean is that the character had been left to drift too long, and she'd effectively gone stale. When it happens to a
character to that degree it becomes a real headache trying to make her interesting again, so I decided in the end that it
was better to do without her and considering how little she did in the Main Sequel Project before Neil decided to write her
out again, that view is kind of reinforced.
As far as I'm concerned, Vila is not
a coward. My definition of a coward is someone who lets fear stop them doing the right thing, and there are countless examples
throughout all four seasons of Blake's 7 when Vila gets the better of his fear.
He is simply a man who knows his limitations and acknowledges his weaknesses, of which he has sadly many. His strengths on
the other hand are very different to those of his colleagues and these do not include the art of combat to any great degree.
For these reasons, he inevitably knows more fear than his colleagues and crucially he isn't ashamed to admit it. That is entirely
to his credit, more so that he is even willing to mock himself because of it.
The reason his crewmates find him so
annoying is because his opinion of those around him is no higher than his view of himself. It means that once he starts moaning
he doesn't stop. Also, his inexplicable idea that he's a charming womaniser gives the ladies on-ship more reason to lose their
We have learned very little about Vila's
past. We know that he's been getting into trouble for theft all his life, including spells on penal colonies and mental reprogramming.
He has claimed that his Delta classification is a fake that he bought from a Federation official. I believe him, he's far
too clever to be a Delta grade, and there's no doubt that when he acts the fool, "acts" is the key word. When he needs people
to explain the very obvious to him, it's not that he can't think about it for himself, it's just that he can't be bothered
His relationship with Avon is remarkably
complex, if a bit tired by the later episodes. It's built on the foundation of two cynical rogues with extraordinary but very
different gifts, who despise one another intensely but mortally depend on each other. Avon's skill with computers is crucial
to Vila's survival, while Vila's skill with locks is priceless to Avon's. Their mutual professional respect is at odds with
the contempt they have for each other personally. There are times when Avon must wish he could just ring Vila's neck and be
done with him, but he can't afford to lose a thief of his talent, so he puts up with all the whining and insults. Insulting
Avon is probably one of Vila's great pleasures but it's usually short-lived - it never seems to matter how smart-mouthed or
vicious Vila's comment is, Avon always seems to have an even stronger retort, and thus he usually gets the last word.
Vila is a lazy, feckless individual
and his drunken behaviour is testament to this - he clings to his "I'm-a-no-hoper" image with such jealousy, simply to avoid
being valued enough for people to make demands on him. And there's the paradox. He treasures his abilities as a thief as they
are what mark him out as an individual, but he hates what they mean to everyone else, because then people start to depend
on him and he doesn't enjoy the pressure.
In conclusion, Vila isn't a coward he's
lazy. Whether that's any better is up to the beholder to decide.
As for how he is to continue developing
in Blakes Legacy, I plan to open up elements of his past, which have so far remained a mystery. As weve already seen,
he has found his niece and then quickly lost her again. The consequences of this, not just for Vila but also for others in
his family, will gradually unfold in the second season.
Cally changed a lot during her time
on the Liberator. When she joined the crew she was a mystical fighter who could talk and fight tough against the
Federation but proved to be meek among her crewmates. She seemed in the early days to lack a certain amount of initiative,
always happy to let Blake do her thinking for her. When Jenna told Blake that she "wasn't a child" she was wrong. A child
was exactly what Cally was. However she matured quite a bit as the first two seasons progressed, especially after learning
a painful lesson about trust - trusting Gan while he was mentally-ill nearly cost Cally her life.
As time passed she seemed to develop
a healthy authority, especially after Blake disappeared. She sometimes lived as the conscience of the Liberator crew once
Avon took command, and yet her thirst to see good prevail proved an ongoing weakness - she was frequently the one who could
be relied on to get into trouble at the drop of a hat and need her friends to rescue her.
It was no secret that Cally fell in
love with Avon at some point, though whether he returned those feelings is difficult to judge. Apart from Avon and Blake,
it's also difficult to decide whether Cally truly had a friend on the Liberator. Vila was close but infuriated her too often,
Tarrant she clearly despised, Jenna was first hostile then condescending to her, Gan just wasn't bright enough to understand
her. All of which left Dayna as the only likely candidate. She couldn't help caring about all of them, it was in her nature,
but her alien persona meant there was always a distance.
The reasons she gave for her exile from
Auron are conflicting, but whichever version was the real truth, there's no doubt that it opened up a wound in her that left
her terribly vulnerable. The destruction of her people at the hands of Servalan reopened that wound, and this time it never
quite healed. Her life started to crumble after that, and in retrospect, perhaps her death was only a matter of time, maybe
even a mercy.
Cally was a follower, not a leader,
and was perhaps too much of a born-victim to survive. However it should be remembered that when she finally died on Terminal
it was not her fault, but a mixture of Servalan's vindictiveness and unusual recklessness from Avon.
Gan was the classic great-idea-gone-wrong
character. Making him into a super-strong, super-powerfully-built muscle man who had been physically restricted from taking
lives was a very clever idea, in that it made the most invincible of the Liberator crew also the most vulnerable, a sort of
involuntary gentle giant. The irony of this can't have been lost on Terry Nation, and he must have hoped for some interesting
possibilities when he created him.
The bitter truth is it didn't work out
that way. The limiter-implant proved to be a restriction on Gan, not just physically, but also on his character. It was clearly
hard for the writers to find anything for a fugitive and freedom fighter to do when he couldn't kill.
However, there was perhaps more
room for development than was considered at the time. I've heard some fascinating theories about Gan from other fanfic writers
over the years, and one in particular I find all too convincing, not to mention unpleasant. I'm not going to go into details
for the time being, as I may decide to use it for a background detail in a later story in Blake's Legacy, and I don't
want to spoil the surprise.
said of Servalan that she was some greedy gangster. As a matter of fact, he's right. She was interesting and scary a lot of
the time, but overall she did not quite have the depth she'd promised, and in the end a gangster was all she really turned
out to be.
Servalan was great in seasons two and
three of Blake's 7, an excellent villainess who was capable of ingenious and shocking evil. But she was under worked
when she appeared in the first season, and an irritating hindrance in the last. Her lack of involvement in season one could
simply be put down to early teething troubles for a new TV show, not to mention unexpected competition for airtime with Travis.
But practically her entire involvement in the fourth season was scandalous, a crime.
She should have been killed off at Terminal
at the end of season three when they had the opportunity to write her out. For one thing her character was becoming monotonous.
She had a tendency to kill off her allies once they'd served their purpose, but by this point she almost seemed to be doing
it for the sake of it. It was a symptom of her thinly veiled insecurity, it's true, but how far can insecurity be taken? For
that matter, how interesting is a psychopathic killer? As far as I'm concerned they're only really interesting if there's
something unusual about the way they go about killing, or if there's a story behind their psychosis. When it comes to Servalan,
neither is really the case. All right, so there was the old Don Keller business behind her, but that was hardly a reason for
her to become the deathly blood broker she turned into. I prefer cunning villains to psychos, and as such I prefer Servalan
to be the cold calculating evil of before, forever inventing clever plans that exploit people and really outmanoeuvre her
opponents, making the audience think "Why you sneaky bitch!" and not just blowing people up all the time.
In fact it ceased to be shocking when
she killed someone. For instance I was far more surprised when she spared Egrorian and Pinder than I was when she killed Zukan.
In short, it was all getting a bit tedious and predictable. About the only thing Tony Attwood got right when he wrote Afterlife
was killing Servalan off nice and quickly.
Timothy Dean has made many excellent
points in his Discontinuity Guide about Servalan's appearances in the last season indeed with the exceptions
of Sand and Animals, she was largely an unnecessary extra character who only got in the way of the story.
How many times did she turn out to be the mystery (HAH!) villain behind the evil plan? Apparently we're supposed to
be as surprised watching Warlord as we were watching Traitor. You mean you weren't? How silly of you, obviously
you werent watching it properly.
The worst thing about this is that most
of the time the villain she was commanding was a perfectly adequate character in his/her own right and didn't need anybody
running them. The term "Too many cooks" leaps to mind, or as they once said in Wing Commander, "Too much brass is a
pain in the ass." In episodes like Gold and Warlord, Servalan WAS a pain in the ass.
I decided not to kill her off in
Blake's Legacy because she still had an ingenuity that I wanted to exploit. Therefore I just brought all of that dreary
Commissioner Sleer-rubbish to an end as quickly as I could, so that she no longer had a secret to kill for, and gave her a
need for some kind of army so that she was forced to keep her allies alive. This has allowed her to be a little less murderous
and rediscover some of her old subtlety.
Now I don't want to be one of those
many infernal people who insist on knocking Brian Croucher. He couldn't help the fact that Travis had already been played
by someone else before him. He couldn't help the fact that Stephen Greif decided to leave the series. He couldn't help
the fact that they looked different to each other and had different voices you can't even blame his parents for that. These
seem to be the only reasons why so many Blake's 7 fans insist on having a go at Croucher, and they are universally
But none of this will change the fact
that at some point every Blake's 7 fan I've ever met has asked me "Which Travis did you prefer?" and I've always
had to answer "The first one." It's not just the old original-is-best mentality, there was something powerful, even charismatic,
about Greif's portrayal of Travis that Croucher couldn't compete with I'm not sure anyone could. Greif literally dominated
every scene he appeared in, even ones with Blake or Servalan. Don't get me wrong, Croucher did remarkably well in the role
considering all the terrible difficulties he had to overcome to settle into the series, and I am still a fan of his portrayal,
but he just didn't have that capacity to dominate at every turn.
Ironically in all this slavish
praise of Stephen Greif, my opinion has changed a little in recent years. For although Greif was the superior performer, I
have come to realise that it was Travis Mark II who was by far the more interesting incarnation of the character. His visits
to the retraining therapist between Orac and Weapon clearly damaged him mentally, and added far more traits
to what, in the first season, had been a pretty bog standard villain. It's easy to miss the comic book nature of Travis originally
- the only real aspects to his character were that he was murderous and bullying, and that he had a grudge against Blake.
Suddenly after the retraining therapy he received, his personality became more fractured. He developed a deep resentment of
Servalan's constant exploitation of him, he grew to hate the rest of the Liberator crew almost as much as Blake, his die-hard
loyalty to the Federation became distorted and traumatised, and the growing suicidal despair he went through after being outlawed
turned to an even greater hatred of the human race as a whole. He became a genuinely tragic, even sympathetic, villain.
My view of Travis is largely
in accord with the one put forward by Chris Boucher. As he had no concept of unity beyond his duty to the Federation, I suspect
that he was probably an orphan who joined the forces as soon as he was old enough and, because it was the first time in his
life he was somewhere that he felt he truly belonged, became its greatest devotee. When, after his trial, he was dismissed
from the service, it must have been the most terrible body-blow of his life, worse even than the injuries inflicted on
him by Blake, because it undermined his only reason for existing (in the same way that people who have lost their family feel
completely dispossessed). This explains his later self-destructive behaviour.
His obsession with Blake was
the main reason Servalan chose him for the task of pursuing the Liberator, but in fact this was the very thing that
made him fail. He was so distracted by the desire to kill Blake that he kept missing key details when the opportunity presented
itself. In that respect, he is similar to Servalan, except that with Servalan the distractions are born of her dreadful habit
Travis' demise on Star One was spectacular,
but my favourite moment was before that when he shot Blake and loudly proclaimed, I am Travis. It was a nice touch
giving Brian Croucher the opportunity to say that after all the earlier stick he had to endure.
was Jenna Mark II for me, not so much by her personality but for the enormous potential that was wasted. She was bright, courageous,
quick-witted, and had a healthy preference for human nature over the technological, but also had an intriguing character flaw,
namely her apparent inability to grasp the difference between right and wrong. This held tremendous possibilities but never
really emerged beyond her debut appearance in Aftermath. Why this should be was never made clear, as there was nothing
to indicate that she learned much about it in that episode. Afterwards she occasionally played a dynamic role in some episodes
but her accepted role in life seemed to be to throw unhelpful remarks of savage irony into other peoples conversations (Death-Watch
featuring several prime examples). Her sanctimonious view of Justin's experiments in Animals seems inexplicable in
light of her previous inverted innocence. (In reality it was because the episode had been written for Cally before the
writers knew that Jan Chappel was leaving the series, but that explanation leaves the confines of the Blake's 7 universe).
Her talent for marksmanship was sublime,
as was her knowledge of weaponry, but her mind lacked discipline. Her attitude of no-danger-no-pleasure suggests that she
was capable of being really bloodthirsty and reckless, but again examples are really fleeting. Her father's death led to a
blood feud with Servalan, one that should have been accelerated after Justin was killed, and yet, once again, little seemed
to come of it.
Many possibilities were opened on her
debut appearance, and yet so few were subsequently fulfilled, or even acknowledged. On the whole, even more than Jenna, Dayna
was a serious opportunity shamefully missed by the writers of Blakes 7.
appears to be a classic loveable rogue, impulsive to the point of foolish and die-hard, even passionately, loyal to his
crewmates. This is not quite the truth, although I wouldn't go as far as Neil Blissett does by claiming that he is a clever
man with a hidden agenda.
I do agree that he is selfish, and that
even when he does things for the rest of the crew it is for completely selfish reasons. But I find it very hard to believe
that he is clever. If he really had another agenda I'm sure it would have emerged before Liberator was destroyed.
When he risks his own safety for the
sake of others, it's not because he's putting on an act, he does it more because he isn't really thinking and so he ends up
doing things entirely on impulse. His impulse in Ultraworld for instance says, "Cally's on my side, Cally's in trouble,
so I go and help Cally." And that's about it.
I agree with Steven Pacey, in that I
don't think that Tarrant really had very much personality at all. He was a bundle of very powerful instincts and little else.
When he needed something from someone uncooperative he became bullying and aggressive. When he saw a pretty face in tears,
his heart always seemed to melt. Whenever there was danger, he usually acted first and thought about it later.
Not much personality in that little
lot, in fact it all sounds a bit Neanderthal.
Indeed, this is probably why Tarrant
seemed to catch the love-bug so desperately in season four. Failing to learn from the misadventure with Piri, he fell for
Servalan, then for the daughter of a brutal dictator. The degree of sheer brainlessness that these flings required borders
on the implausible - perhaps he was going through an incredibly early mid-life crisis.
is Soolin? Beats me.
This is probably not the most positive
way to start this particular character study, but then she's not an easy character to study. Soolin isn't another missed opportunity
as yet, but by the end of the last season of Blake's 7 she was heading in that direction. It wasn't that she was inactive
or drifting or anything, but there seemed little urgency among the writers to get to the core of her character. She was highly
involved in most stories, but she was also one of those characters we end up finding out very little about.
Soolin was only brought in because the
show needed a replacement for Cally, and my suspicion is that the writers were a bit stuck for ideas. That accusation could
be aimed at most of what happened in season four of course, but that's a separate matter. The result for Soolin was a woman
reading Avon's lines and shooting with Dayna's trigger finger. Not uninteresting, you understand, just not very original.
Apart from vague references to the deaths of her family on Gauda Prime, we don't know anything about her that isn't equally
attributable to her crewmates. Indeed, on the issue of her family's deaths, couldn't it be argued that even that's just a
little too similar to Dayna's story? It was even a little like what happened to Blake's family if you think about it.
Of course that's not necessarily the
wrong thing to do. The Federation is a vast and brutal dictatorship, so it goes without saying that many people would have
suffered similar traumas, and that would be why so many would become resisters in the first place. But I do think that Soolin's
case is rather a barebones one in terms of what we've so far found out. "Ah," I hear you cry, "but you can't judge on what
weve found out so far, can you?" Perfectly true, kind of underlining my original point. We just don't know who she is.
But the key thing for me is that, unlike Jenna or Dayna, she hasn't faded or gone stale. The
fact that she's remained far more active and more positively involved means that for the time being we can forgive the previous
lack of illumination. In Blake's Legacy I've decided to start the belated work of making Soolin a bit more 3D. There's
no doubt that Soolin has a kind side to her nature, no matter how embittered she has become over the horrors of her childhood.
What I did in the first season was engineer situations that made her more vulnerable, but also allowed her to be less defensive,
making her open up to those around her far more. What I plan to do in the next season (more risky this one) is try to speculate
on more details of Soolin's childhood, work out more background detail to the story of her family's death (if only to make
it more interesting than just "someone murdered them"), and make a little more sense of why she is who she is. No easy task,
but I think it's worth it. There are clearly all sorts of possibilities, and it would be nice if, just for once, such possibilities
in a female character didn't go unfulfilled.