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I came here to take President Sarkoff back to his people.

Television

Blake’s 7
1.11: Bounty

 

It was inevitable that the series would trot out a retro-planet budget-saver at some point, and it’s a shame that it comes attached to a story as unimaginative as this one. Blake and Cally teleport down to a Federation planet with the intention of returning the exiled President Sarkoff (T.P. McKenna, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) to his people on Lindor.

Sarkoff is under guard so there’s quite a bit of extended ducking and running for Blake and Cally to do, only to find Sarkoff is extremely reluctant to return. He is content to wallow in the historical artefacts that surround him in his small castle. His daughter Tyce thinks he should grow a pair.

The B-plot, which converges eventually with the A, sees the Liberator detect an unidentified ship (we are told later that it is the civilian cruiser Star Queen, which it turns out not to be) and Gan teleports over to investigate. Vila doesn’t like it, and he’s right.

AvonAs a matter of fact, I don’t like it either.
VilaHe agrees with me. Makes it all seem worthwhile somehow.

Gan, being a great hulking goob, screws things up for everyone else although we don’t find that out until later. That we are left dangling (Gan appears to call the Liberator to teleport him back and Zen informs Vila that this isn’t Gan’s voice; Vila races to the teleport room too late, so if nothing else the Liberator should really pipe Zen through to all important stations) is the only decent suspense sequence in the episode, and unfortunately the revelation of the culprits is a bit of a letdown (not that a scheme by Travis would been unexpected, but it would certainly have been more dramatic).

The highlight of the planetary scenes is McKenna’ Sarkoff, all charm and erudition. His response to Blake’s claim that he is not there to kill him is particularly amusing:

SarkoffI am grateful for your semantic precision…

Tyce has a jaw that could wrestle for supremacy with Cally’s (I recognise Carinthia West from something else, but imdb doesn’t help). Blake’s exposition of the background to Sarkoff’s exile is the most interesting aspect of this plot thread, as it has the whiff of commentary on Western power-grabbing. Blake learnt the details from the cipher machine we saw in Seek-Locate-Destroy.

The Federation refer to their machinations as the Lindor Strategy, beginning with rigged elections to wrest Sarkoff from power (he was convinced it was due to his unpopularity, since Lindor didn’t even join the Federation after he lost and his opposition to joining was foremost on his ticket) and only ending when he returns to power as a puppet leader of a subjugated people. Such underhand activity, not officially sanctioned, suggests it’s only really the signposting of their “stormtroopers” that sets the Federation apart from more obviously democratic structures (that there’s a fine line between democratic and totalitarian rule).

Blake, as ever seeing things in black and white first, says that Sarkoff must come by force if necessary. He persuades Sarkoff by starting to smash his collection up, which is the same kind of clinical manipulation that saw him threaten Kane’s hands in the previous episode.

There’s some rather rum “action” involving escaping in Sarkoff’s old car before they all teleport back to the Liberator for the final 20 minutes (again, this follows the structure of the previous episode).

Where, rather boringly, the ship has been overrun by Amagon smugglers (distinguished by their Arabian looks and garb.) And Jenna gets a wee subplot, since she knows their leader Tarvin and appears to have joined up with them.

Of course she hasn’t really as she remains mystifyingly hot for Blake. Tarvin is in it for the bounty on the crew and ship (13 million credits, or only 12 million if he decides not to turn in Jenna.) She promises him the 300 million credits-worth of booty on the ship and gets rid of a couple of guards while running with this gambit.

Vila has an argument with Avon while trying to unlock the neck bracelet on Blake. Avon’s trying to unlock the door but it’s bloody Gan who causes the ruckus by getting all irate and doing a GAN SMASH! that distracts them. I can’t tell if Darrow is genuinely cracking up when Vila asks him to “Shut up, please” but it’s a great moment. Keating plays Vila’s frustration at potentially having no one to unlock his neck bracelet amusingly too.

The stand-off between Tarvin and Sarkoff (who is his guest for the time being) sees him eventually shoot the smuggler when Tarvin is distracted by Blake. It should be involving, but it’s not really, and the extensive rewrites Boucher had to undertake show in the slackness of pace, so-so characterisation and lack of drama.

More of Blake as unlikely babe-magnet when Tyce says goodbye to him; Cally and (of course) Jenna get all catty that she didn’t mean her goodbye for anyone but Blake. It’s another groan-worthy episode ending, and a worrying development that suggests the series is going down a sub-Star Trek route of “humorous” (as in shite) sign-offs to the audience.

I can’t find much to recommend here. The plotlines are dull, and only McKenna distinguishes himself. A retro-theme might have worked well but it comes across as cobbled together, while the piracy plot is uninspired. Possibly the cleverest part is that the title refers both to Sarkoff and the crew, which says something for the overall level of invention.

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