Deliverance sets the groundwork for the season finale, and the main plotline is likably quirky if unremarkable. We start off thinking the story will be Servalan-centric with her up to no good in the Federation Space Command wheel (the Spacemaster ship she remotely detonates a charge on is an admirable effort, but a not-so-successful piece of effects work). This episode is a veritable feast for fans of Nation’s space prefixes. Servalan cancels her meeting with the “Space Administrators”.
Aboard the Spacemaster are Ensor (Tony Caunter of The Crusade, Colony in Space and Enlightenment) and Space Surgeon (!) Maryatt. So it’s down to Cephlon they flee in their escape pods, a planet populated by a bunch of primitive types. They look the sorts to repeat “Ug” to each other throughout the day. Michael E Briant is blessed with some snow to shoot in (which may account for the line about massive variations in temperature when the Liberator crew discuss going down to search for crash survivors.) The planet also has high radiation levels.
Blake: Are you sure you want to go down?
Avon: Are you afraid I will be able to cope with it better than you?
Avon: Well, perhaps you ought to be.
Yes, it’s Avon leading the away team of Jenna, Vila and lumbering lummox Gan. So maybe he’s getting slightly into the heroic thing. Or he just wants to show Blake exactly what he says above. Certainly, he doesn’t give a rationalisation or intellectual curiosity as motive for this trip.
Finding Ensor alive, Vila wonders’ “Will he survive through the teleport stress?” There’s teleport stress? No one’s ever mentioned it before. This is the third outing for the Space Walkman and Visor, as Cally is grooving away to a jaunty Space Tune. She’s not hip, that’s for sure. And, although she hears Avon calling, it’s a bit remiss not to be fully alert at the teleport controls.
Of course, nothing ever goes completely to plan, and Jenna managed to get attacked by the Ugs. She is thus stuck on the surface. Dudley Simpson uses a recognisable bit of his The Talons of Weng-Chiang score (which is a good thing). Blake has a habit getting all mardy with Avon over events that he really has no control over. When the latter says he will go back to search for Jenna, Blake tells him “I think you better” as if Avon left her there on purpose. Why don’t the teleport bracelets return to the Liberator when activated? I don’t see why they’d need a person attached to them.
Ensor is a bit of a bastard, pulling a gun on Blake and Cally and telling them to pilot the ship to Aristo (we have our first mention of Orac, and Ensor must reach his father to provide him with a box of micro power cells, without which he will only have a few days to live).
Blake should really have called Ensor’s bluff regarding his threat to kill Cally and then him, as he wouldn’t have been able to pilot the ship himself. This plot thread manages to work better than most of the Liberator-bound ones of recent episodes, slender as it is. There’s never much doubt that the ship will eventually turn back to fetch Avon et al, but there’s some reasonably tense scenes with Cally under threat. The eventual death of Ensor sets up the season finale with two parties converging on Aristo.
The scene between Servalan and Space Commander Travis is first rate, highlighting the former’s ruthlessness and a suggesting a hint of vulnerability in the latter. Travis didn’t resign, as was expected of him following the inquiry into his failure to apprehend Blake, and wants his command back. But it’s his response to Servalan informing him of Maryatt’s fate that shows a chink in his armour. Maryatt saved his life so he shows a slight reserve at Servalan’s suggestion that the Space Surgeon be named as a deserter, which will result in his family entering slavery.
Servalan: Does it matter?
Travis: No, only Blake matters now.
Servalan: And Orac.
Servalan hasn’t told her superiors of her plan (she offered Ensor 100 million credits for Orac – who is worth 10 times that – but had no intention of following through) so she’s identified here as more autonomous than previously (when she seemed most concerned about getting results that did not reflect badly on her.) She and Travis plan to obtain Orac together. I wonder if they’ll encounter Blake next week?
The Ugs aren’t the most impressive of adversaries and we see Avon shoot one (I haven’t been keeping track, but I’m not sure that we’ve seen him kill anyone outright up until now); Avon, Vila and Gan meet Meegat behind a handy door (one that Gan and Jenna discovered earlier), and what follows provides the episode’s most humorous incidents. Meegat is played with earnest naiveté by the attractive Suzan Farmer (she also appeared in the UFO episode Survival). In Season One tradition, she appears to be devoid of a bra. She picks on Avon to worship as her lord.
Gan: She seems to be on our side.
Vila: Yes, but the poor woman’s insane.
Avon: Not necessarily.
On the violence front, Jenna smashes in an Ug’s skull with a rock but fails to escape.
Vila: You’re enjoying this, aren’t you.
Meegat says there are less than 100 of her people left, but where are they? And how did she end up in her bolthole? Apparently there are about 200 Ugs. So there are probably some interbreeding issues as well as mutations due to radiation poisoning.
The dusty, aging control panels prefigure the forgotten history stories of Who’s season 18 (Full Circle and State of Decay) and Meegat tells Avon that it was prophesied that he (a stranger not of their world) would come and would know what to do.
Meegat: All things are known to you. You are truly lord.
Vila: Counting yourself, that makes two people who think you’re wonderful.
Initially, I thought the reference to a chemical rocket meant it was full of chemicals, but they seem just to be commenting on how it’s fuelled. Meegat refers to the title of the episode when she says, “He shall recognise deliverance and speak its name”. There’s a call back to Time Squad when they realise that the rocket carries dormant cells of Meegat’s race (or, less charitably, Terry Nation really has run out of ideas and is repeating himself.)
Avon is given more of a Blake action role during the rescue of Jenna (the series thus far has played up his intellect and cunning as opposed to his brawn, such that his previous showcase episode had him playing detective); he beats an Ug with a stick and kicks another Ug down, effectively rescuing both Jenna and hapless Vila. Gormless Gan also gets to beat up a load of Ugs (leading to the slightly worrying line, “For a minute there I was actually beginning to enjoy myself” – perhaps Gan’s limiter was for more than just killing a Federation guard after all).
Vila: No respect. They obviously didn’t realise who you were.
Avon seems to rather enjoy Meegat’s devoted attention, at one point putting his hand on her cheek and, on their return to her bolthole, for a moment he even looks poised to take advantage of her subservience.
But he actually says that he’s sorry she had to wait so long for help to come, which is about as nice as Avon ever gets. Michael E Briant echoes his Revenge of the Cybermen in using stock rocket lift-off footage (“My Skystriker, my glory!”); it will take 500 years to reach planet fall in the Magdalen Alpha system. But what happened to Meegat? The crew seem to have left her on her own. I guess she could return to the rest of her people, if she can avoid the Ugs.
Avon is asked if Meegat really though he was a god.
Avon: For a while.
Blake: How did it feel?
Avon: Don’t you know?
Blake: Yes, I don’t like the responsibility either.
A priceless look from Avon in response. It’s the kind of self-consciousness the series needs so as not to fall into the kind of one note dramatics that its premise inclines it towards.
Angry primitives aren’t the most promising of elements to put in a story, but this veers closer to Beneath the Planet of the Apes in its tale of a degraded society and so maintains interest. Fortunately, it possesses a more refined sense of humour than that film.