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Recap / Blakes Seven S 1 E 3 Cygnus Alpha

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Written by Terry Nation.
Directed by Vere Lorrimer.
Airdate: 16 January 1978.

Two people are on a planet, watching the night sky. They are waiting for the prison ship, and see it arrive. On board the London, Captain Leylan sends the incident report for the last episode, and talks to one of the crew about Blake and the Federation's inevitable pursuit.

Blake, Jenna, and Avon discover an armory, but still can't really operate the ship. The controls are hit-and-miss, but they discover Zen, the ship's computer. Zen is evasive when questioned, so after telling him where they want to go, they explore on their own. They find a teleport system, but all of the Federation's experiments with teleportation were unreliable, leaving them suspicious of its safety. The ship (now called the Liberator) has stopped suddenly, and the crew are surprised that they're at their destination much faster than expected.

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The prisoners from the London are released onto the surface of the planet, and lament the conditions before wandering off. The woman seen watching the sky at the beginning of the episode has been sent to retrieve them by a hammy priest.

They can't land the ship, so Blake tries the teleport system. On the surface, Blake is attacked by priests, but brought back to the ship quickly. Blake decides to go back and attempt to rescue the other prisoners. He tells the other two they can leave after an allotted amount of time has passed, and Avon is happy at the idea of deserting him, while Jenna is less certain.

Blake finds the other prisoners locked in a cell, and they are all sick. The priests have given them medicine, but they will need it for the rest of their lives. He tries to convince them to go with him, but eventually gives up and says he'll be back later, at which point he is captured.

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Back on the Liberator, Jenna has found new clothes, and Avon is taking apart the teleport console. She points him to a room down the hall, and takes his place at the console.

On the planet, Blake is talking to the hammy priest Vargas (BRIAN BLESSED), who is unwilling to free the prisoners. They talk about power and fear, and the priest reveals he wants the Liberator so he can rule the galaxy. He puts Blake with the other prisoners and threatens them to convince him.

On the ship, Avon has taken a look at the room Jenna directed him to, and discovered a vast collection of valuables. He tries to convince Jenna to leave, because Blake will only waste them. Jenna agrees, but only after the time she promised Blake has passed.

Blake and the other prisoners escape and fight Vargas and his priests. Only Blake, Gan, and Vila survive, but they get teleport bracelets. They call to be brought up, but Avon attempts to convince Jenna to leave them one last time. Blake goes back for his gun, and is unsuccessful, but eventually beamed up with the others. Vargas was wearing a teleport bracelet, and teleports with them. He still has the gun, and tries to take the ship, admitting that the sickness and drug he uses to control his people are fake. He steps back into the teleport and is beamed out into space.

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The ship gets moving again, but they are being followed by Federation ships. Avon is pessimistic about their chances of ever truly getting away, but Blake does not want to get away; he wants to fight.


Tropes:

  • A God Am I: Fortunately God cannot breathe in space.
    Vargas: [Milking the Giant Cow] I was their priest. I shall return to them a god... A god... [Defeat Equals Explosion]
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Avon isn't happy how Zen ignores their questions about who owns the spaceship. "A computer can't have a mind of its own."
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Zen displays lights on an octagonal dome on the flight deck when speaking. "Your species requires a visual reference point."
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end of the episode Zen detects three Federation pursuit ships have scanned them. Blake orders a Hyperspeed Escape.
    Avon: With our speed we'll probably outrun them...this time. But they'll keep coming. Pushing us, tracking us. They'll never give up.
    Blake: Nor will we. When we can handle this ship properly, we'll stop running. Then we'll fight.
  • Anti-Hero: Avon makes it clear that he's Not in This for Your Revolution, tries to convince Jenna to abandon Blake on the planet, and makes an Implied Death Threat to both of them. Jenna herself is tempted with the idea of leaving after discovering just how much wealth is stashed on board the Liberator.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Zen calls their vessel the Liberator, having taken the name from Jenna's mind. Presumably 'Zen' as well, given that it would be a Meaningful Name (a mysterious possessor of great knowledge, who leaves its students to work out their own meaning from obscure hints, much like the popular view of Zen Buddhism).
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The presence of Acro and Selman would add up to the Seven, but both are killed during the escape. Turns out the other members are Zen/Liberator, and Cally who appears in "Time Squad".
    • Blake readies the novices to attack the priests. Later Gan is brought in chains to be sacrificed, and the priests explain that they were attacked but overcame the novices. Turns out Blake and the others are Dressing as the Enemy with a Trojan Prisoner.
  • BBC Quarry: Springwell Lock Quarry in Hertfordshire, making all the talk about how awful Cygnus Alpha is Hilarious in Hindsight as it looks like half the planets they'll land on in future. There is however an attempt to make it look unfriendly with perpetual night, bubbling mud pools, and sinister steam.
  • The Chick: Subverted with Jenna; so far she's the only female member of this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, but she seriously thinks of taking the loot and abandoning Blake, insisting only that they wait for the full four hours he requested so she can tell herself they gave him every chance.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Vila saving Blake by stabbing his attacker In the Back.
  • Cool Guns: Well they would be if they didn't look like curling tongs. Once they get fired however, the results are impressive.
  • Cool Starship: The Liberator can travel faster than any starship in the Federation, has a sentient computer, an armory of Cool Guns, a working teleport system, a well-stocked wardrobe and a fortune in treasure — no reason for the latter is ever given.
  • Crapsack World: Being a prison planet, Cygnus Alpha itself qualifies.
  • Cult Colony: The prison colony of Cygnus Alpha is ruled by Vargas who enforced his control by controlling access to a "medicine" that protected against a divinely-sent plague. The disease turned out to be a mild poison the cult was dosing itself and new arrivals with, but only the leader/s knew this.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Blake tries to rouse the prisoners to risk death from the Curse and go with him to the Liberator. Only a few are willing to take the risk.
  • Dead Guy on Display: So Perish Unbelievers.
  • Door Judo: Gan holds the door against the cultists hammering on the other side. Then he yanks it open, letting them fall through so Blake can run back inside to grab the gun.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: When he's first activated, Zen sounds a bit like Orac (Peter Tuddenham would voice both computers).
  • Evil Is Hammy: Vargas makes a verbose contrast to the soulless Orwellian bureaucrats of the Terran Administration. He will be the first of many hammy villains in this series.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness
    Vila: The architectural style is Early Maniac.
  • Explosive Decompression: When Vargas is beamed out into space, he explodes. However it is explicitly explained that this is not a pressure explosion but the result of teleporters being incapable of reassembling you properly if you get teleported beyond the safe range. ("Their atoms would be scattered to the solar winds" as Avon poetically puts it.)
  • Figure It Out Yourself: Zen refuses to tell our heroes how to work the instruments on the Liberator, but implies that they must learn through experience.
  • Friend or Foe: Someone throws a spear at Gan, but Kara shouts a warning and he jumps aside, causing the spear to hit her instead.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Vargas already has absolute power on his world, but it's not enough.
    "I ruled. I ruled...a small prison planet with never more than five hundred people. But with this... With this I could rule a thousand planets. For that prize, do you think I would hesitate to kill you?"
  • Government Drug Enforcement:
    • Not wanting any more trouble, Captain Leylan orders suppressants pumped into the air supply during the risky landing and prisoner transfer.
    • The cult on Cygnus Alpha's fake medicine.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Two cultists cross their spears to bar the way instead of sticking Blake with the pointy end; our hero just dives over the spears.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: The Liberator guns (apparently some kind of sonic lance) were meant to evoke this trope.
  • Hobbes Was Right
    Vargas: My ancestors came here on that first shipment. They had nothing! The Federation gave them no tools, no supplies. So they worked together. THEY WORKED HARD! And made a community. There were children born here. They were settlers trying to build a new world on a new planet. Later, more Federation prisoners came. There were disagreements. The community began to break up. They fought and killed. All that they had achieved was being destroyed! And it was my great-great-grandfather who found a way to unite them. (picks up old, rusty revolver from table) He gave them a religion. Brought them together in the love and fear of God! That is the line I stem from. THAT, IS WHAT GIVES ME THE RIGHT TO RULE!
  • Hollywood Torches: At least they have an excuse.
  • Human Sacrifice: Gan is selected for this, but fortunately he's only pretending to be chained up.
  • If I Do Not Return: Blake decides on four hours for his next trip down to the surface. Avon tries to convince Jenna to leave after finding the wealth stashed on the Liberator, but fortunately Jenna insists on giving Blake his four hours.
    Jenna: If something happens to you... if we don't hear or we can't get you back?
    Blake: You must decide for yourselves. But I wouldn't want you to leave too soon.
    Jenna: [Death Glare at Avon] No, we wouldn't.
    Blake: No, I don't think you would.
  • I Kiss Your Foot: Kara to Vargas.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: Blake has brought a bag of teleport bracelets for the other prisoners. Vargas doesn't know what they are, but realises they must be valuable to Blake, so he crushes them one at a time to encourage him to talk.
  • In the Hood: The priests.
  • It's a Small World After All: Both Avon and Blake worked on the unsuccessful Federation project to develop transporter technology. When this trope is brought up, Blake just points out that it was a very big project.
  • It's the Only Way
    • Blake must use the teleport despite the danger, because they don't know how to land the Liberator.
    • After seeing someone beckoning to them, Gan goes to find out who it is. "We're going to have to see what's out there sooner or later."
  • I Will Tear Your Arms Off: Arco is trying to lean on Vila.
    Arco: Are you going to shut your mouth or have I got to do it for you?
    Gan: Only if you're lying down, cause if you touch him again, I'm going to break your arms and legs off.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: After discovering the Pirate Booty, Avon urges Jenna to leave Blake behind and his revolution with him.
    Avon: He's a crusader. He'll look upon all this as just one more weapon to use against the Federation. And he can't win. You know he can't win.
  • Just a Machine
    Blake: I'm not sure I entirely trust a computer with a mind of it's own.
    Jenna: I don't think it means us any harm.
    Avon: It has no feelings about us at all. It's just a machine.
  • Kneel Before Zod: On meeting the latest shipment of prisoners, Kara orders them to kneel before God. No-one objects. Then she kisses Gan, who doesn't object to this either.
  • Large Ham: BRIAN BLESSED as a cult leader. 'nuff said.
    Vargas: It is HE who must be obeyed!
  • Living Ship
    Blake: How does she handle, Jenna?
    Jenna: A bit scary. It's almost as if she were alive.
    Avon: Well, I must say all this technology has an organic feel about it. It's not just advanced. It's...
    Blake: Conceptually alien?
  • Ludicrous Speed: Jenna pushes a button and the crew get thrown to the deck by the incredible acceleration. With great effort she's able to stop them flapping their cheeks by pushing the button again. Avon speculates the ship might use 'negative hyperspace' while Blake suggests it might cross the 'antimatter interface' — neither suggestion is ever elaborated upon.
  • Ludd Was Right: Averted, despite use of this trope in later seasons. We're shown that while oppression is assisted by technology, it can function quite well without it.
  • Make an Example of Them: When Blake proves stubborn under torture, Vargas orders him thrown in with the 'novices' to show them what happens to unbelievers, who are told that if Blake doesn't submit, the rest won't get the drug and one of them will be chosen for Human Sacrifice.
  • Manipulative Bastard
    • Vargas is running a Scam Religion based on a Poison-and-Cure Gambit for a disease that's ultimately harmless.
    • Blake claims he didn't see much on his first trip down to the surface, not mentioning that several of the locals tried to kill him. This starts a habit of Blake's of withholding information in order to manipulate his followers into doing what he wants.
  • Master Computer: Meet Zen.
  • Mauve Shirt: Acro and Selman are killed in the fight with the cultists to let the audience know that Anyone Can Die.
  • Mundanger: The themes of brainwashing and abuse of power are revisited in a society without any sophisticated technology.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Captain Leylan realises that his career is finished after letting a notorious political agitator and two other prisoners kill five members of his crew and escape in an alien vessel of superior technology. And this is even before Blake becomes the Federation's Most Wanted.
    • During the climactic brawl, Vila stabs a man to death in self-defense and is deeply upset at having done so. It wouldn't be until the fourth season that he deliberately killed someone again.
  • Never Split The Party: Played for Laughs with Vila as the other prisoners walk off and leave him.
  • Nice Job Breaking It Anti-Hero: Because Avon tries to stop Jenna teleporting up Blake, he ends up teleporting Vargas with a modern weapon.
  • Not So Stoic: Avon grabs for a handhold the second time Jenna tries to hit a button, but nothing happens at all, so he can't help laughing at the anti-climax.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: The armoury is designed so you can only take one firearm each. Then Blake hands two of the weapons to Jenna, making this safety measure entirely useless.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Averted with plainsong chanting.
  • Pirate Booty: Jenna and Avon find a room on the Liberator holding millions of credits worth of jewelry.
    Avon: There must be almost as much wealth in that single room as there is in the entire Federation banking system!
  • Placebo Effect: Turns out the Curse of Cygnus is a harmless fever that burns itself out in a few days, and the antidote is just a bluff.
  • Previously On: Done via the Captain's Log and a Monochrome Past flashback.
  • Purple Is Powerful: High Priest Vargas wears purple robes like some emperor from Ancient Rome.
  • Reality Ensues: Blake teleports down to Cygnus Alpha... and promptly stumbles as he's not standing on an even surface.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Lampshaded
    Jenna: You wouldn't be trying to get rid of me would you?
    Avon: I have to get rid of Blake first. You're next on my list.
    Jenna: That would have been very disarming, if I didn't know that you meant it.
  • Science Is Wrong: Blake points out that the speed the Liberator is apparently travelling would "cross the antimatter interface", which is thought to be physically impossible, Avon points out that people used to think the same thing about the light barrier.
  • Screen Shake: And how!
  • Ship Tease: Jenna rushes to embrace Blake when he survives his first teleport. She also has some Belligerent Sexual Tension with Avon.
  • Sinister Scraping Sound: Blake peeks through a door hatch and sees a priest sharpening a very big knife. He quickly shuts it again.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat
    Blake: (taking one of the guns) Handgun?
    Blake: Depends how elaborate their teeth were.
  • Space Is Noisy: Not even the vacuum of space can silence Vargas.
  • The Squadette: Kara is the only female priest, while as yet Jenna is the only female member of the Seven.
  • Steel Eardrums: Averted
    • The prisoners cover their ears when the London lifts off right above their prison cage.
    • Vargas winces after firing Blake's weapon indoors. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun when Blake fires the gun while being dogpiled by several cultists, causing them to cover their ears and let him go.
    • Played straight with Blake, who receives a full-on Motive Rant from BRIAN BLESSED without going deaf.
  • Tap on the Head: Blake
  • Tele-Frag: During his Motive Rant, Vargas inadvertently steps onto the teleport pad. Blake doesn't miss his opportunity.
  • Teleportation Rescue / Just in Time: The first of many in this series.
    • For their first trial of the teleport, Blake tells the others to set him down for only four minutes. That's just enough time to get him seen and nearly stabbed to death by the cultists. He only escapes because Jenna hits a button at random that turns out to be the right one.
    • Avon tries to stop Jenna teleporting up Blake and the other escapees. At the time they're in a battle with the cultists and the situation is equally urgent. By the time Jenna has convinced him otherwise, Vargas has his hands on a working weapon.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The Federation launched a massive project to develop teleportation, but were unsuccessful. Yet the Liberator features a working teleport.
  • The Theocracy: High Priest Vargus serves as the absolute ruler on the planet. He wants to expand his rule onto other worlds too, with the use of the Liberator.
  • Unobtanium: Aquitar, used in the construction of the teleport.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Jenna comes back with new clothes she found on the alien ship (good thing they had her size). Avon snarks at her Skewed Priorities. Then he goes to look for himself.
  • What Does This Button Do?: Played for Drama as our heroes have no idea how anything works on the Liberator, so must make educated guesses about every button.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The vast fortune on the Liberator only serves as a "Leave Your Quest" Test for Avon and Jenna. We never see Blake using it to finance La Résistance (except for a few crystals in "Shadow"); in fact several future episodes are based on The Caper in order to steal for the revolution (or make our anti-heroes rich).
  • What We Now Know to Be True: When Blake points out that the speed the Liberator is apparently traveling would "cross the antimatter interface", which is thought to be physically impossible, Avon points out that people used to think the same thing about the light barrier.
  • You Can Never Leave: Blake is nearly killed in the belief that he's a deserter from the cult, and novices are informed that they must take the antidote every day for the rest of their lives if they are to survive.
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