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Recap / Blakes Seven S 1 E 8 Duel

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Written by Terry Nation.
Directed by Douglas Camfield.
Airdate: 20 February 1978.

On a world destroyed by war, two powerful aliens force Blake and Travis to fight a duel to the death.


This episode has the following tropes:

  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Though not a BBC Quarry in this case, but a surface of fused glass from a fusion bomb. The combatants are later teleported to a forest on another part of the planet (filmed in New Forest in southern England).
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  • Amazon Brigade: Mutoids.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Averted; the Keeper (Giroc) says that the Guardian (Sinofar) can do this for both of them, but she believes they must atone for the destruction of their world by inspiring other races to put aside their violent ways. When Giroc exalts over Travis' determination to continue with his pointless vendetta, Sinofar states it is that which keeps them both prisoners on their dead world.
  • Bad Boss:
    • It's pointed out that the pursuit ships firing constantly to wear down the Liberator's forcewall leaves them vulnerable to attack (as they're draining their own power banks faster than the Liberator), but Travis regards them both as expendable.
    • Sinofar offers to resurrect the mutoid with Travis, but he rejects her as barely more than a machine and irrelevant to his pursuit of Blake. Sinofar resurrects her anyway, but Travis just blames her for his failure to kill Blake.
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  • The Bait: Travis lights a fire to lure Blake in his direction. As further incentive he sends the mutoid to capture whoever is with Blake.
  • Blood Sport: Giroc enjoys the thrill of the 'primitive' aggression and violence on display. Sinofar has to interrupt events when she arranges for Travis and Blake to meet up immediately.
  • Bound and Gagged: Jenna. Fortunately she's still able to grunt a warning.
  • Bridge Bunnies: Subverted with mutoids who although beautiful are Fan Disservice due to their feeding habits and cybernetic headpieces.
  • Continuity Nod: While watching the action, Cally makes comments based on her guerrilla warfare experience.
  • Conveniently-Placed Sharp Thing: Blake doesn't have time to free Jenna from her bonds, so he jabs his machete in the ground so she can cut herself free while he holds off Travis with a spear.
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  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: While they're stuck up a tree together, Travis makes an attempt to bond with his mutoid by revealing her name before she had her memory wiped. The mutoid is completely disinterested and Travis just gives up in disgust.
  • Dark Is Evil: Travis and the mutoid wear black, in contrast to their pristine white flight deck.
  • Deflector Shields: The power banks are so low, the crew have to wait till just before the plasma bolt strikes before activating the forcewall.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Jenna fights the mutoid, who is weak from lack of serum.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Thunder is heard constantly on the planet, but also sounds at suitable moments in the dialogue.
  • Duel to the Death
  • Everybody Lives: This is the only episode of the series where no-one dies.
  • Exposition Diagram: Blake uses a light pen on a Data Pad connected to Zen's interface as The Big Board, to show the others what his battle strategy is.
  • Fake Kill Scare: Travis has a machete at Blake's throat, when Sinofar appears and puts a stop to events.
  • Fanservice: Sinofar has visible nipples. No doubt she's rather cold in that thin dress.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: The mutoid knocks out Jenna with some kind of crossed-arm chopping motion.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Averted; a mutoid is chosen as a 'friend' to experience death with Travis. Travis does make an effort to bond with her, but it doesn't work and the episode ends on him stating that she will be court-martialed for her failure and likely disposed of.
  • Girly Run: Avon running onto the flight deck in response to the Red Alert.
  • Ghost Planet: The inhabitants fought a Forever War, eventually building a weapon powerful enough to destroy their enemy, only for the radiation to kill off everyone else.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Played with; we have the Guardian as the Maiden, the Keeper as the Crone, but no Mother.
    Sinofar: We were left with a planet made barren by radiation. Our children were monsters, or died, or were never born.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The combatants spend an uncomfortable night in the trees, listening to the roars of the local wildlife.
  • Ho Yay: A Screen Shake causes Avon to catch Blake before he falls over.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: Averted because the Liberator power banks are low.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Travis learns nothing at all from his experience.
  • Improvised Weapon: Each male combatant is given a machete as a tool. Blake constructs a spear for Jenna, while Travis makes a Spikes of Doom Booby Trap. However the latter fails because the vine rope used to suspend it above a captive Jenna is too tough and takes several cuts before it breaks, giving them time to get away.
  • Insult Backfire
    Avon: No, [Vila] was calling me a machine, but since he undoubtedly defines himself as a human being, I shall choose to accept that as more of a compliment than anything else.
  • Just a Machine: Though when Avon is compared to a machine, he takes it as a compliment.
    Blake: I get the distinct feeling I offended Zen's professional pride then.
    Avon: It's just a machine, Blake.
  • Kill Him Already!: The reaction of those watching on the Liberator during the Sword over Head moment. Avon just quietly shakes his head, knowing that Blake won't do it.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Blake climbs a tall tree to see if he can locate Travis. While he's up there, the mutoid kidnaps Jenna.
  • Machete Mayhem: Averted despite each side having a machete each.
  • Monument of Humiliation and Defeat: Subverted in that it was erected by those who lost the war, not the winners. Because there weren't any.
  • Mood Whiplash: Between the flight deck of the Liberator being battered by plasma bolts, and the flight deck of Travis' ship.
  • Not So Different:
    • At the end of the episode having learned nothing from these events, Travis is stated to be no different from the race that destroyed their own planet.
    • Like Travis, Keera is a cyborg who defines their entire existence through their service to the Federation.
  • Oh, Crap!: Blake and the others look up at the Liberator in orbit, and see the lights of Federation pursuit ships closing in on their vessel with its crew completely unaware.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The mutoid feeds on blood serum, and is entirely willing to take this from a captured enemy through a built-in needle in her arm. She even traps vampire bats for the tiny amount of blood in them.
    Travis: I'm aware of your need for blood serum.
    Mutoid: Most are, but few accept it for what it is — a functional convenience. Opponents of mutoid modification call us vampires.
  • Ramming Always Works: Rather than wait till the three ships firing on them have worn down their forcewall, Blake decides to go Straight for the Commander and ram Travis' ship. Instead of taking evasive action Travis decides to fire everything he has at point-blank range. The aliens intervene before we find out what would have happened next.
  • Sarcasm Mode: When Blake is asked if his crew are also willing to die for his cause, he says they're here by their own choice. Listening to this, Avon contributes a sardonic, "Really?"
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Travis exalts that the other Federation patrols have pushed the Liberator into this galaxy. One assumes he meant solar system.
  • Ship Tease: Jenna gives Blake a scowl when he talks of how attractive Sinofar was.
  • Simple Staff: In the end, Travis and Blake go at each other with sharpened quarterstaffs.
  • Slow Motion: When the aliens trap the spaceships in a stasis field.
  • The Spock: Avon serves as a foil to Keera, the Emotionless Girl mutoid.
    Avon: I have never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational in order to prove that you care, or, indeed, why it should be necessary to prove it at all.
  • Stealth in Space: The Liberator goes into a close orbit around the planet to hide them from detectors, as opposed to hiding in deep space while they recharge their energy banks. Travis in turn uses the planet to hide from the Liberator's scanners, though that doesn't explain why Zen doesn't detect them when they make their attack run.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens
  • Sword over Head
    Giroc: Why didn't you kill him?
    Blake: Too weak? Or maybe I didn't entirely trust your motives. Besides, as long as he's alive, he'll be the one chasing me. And I know I can beat him.
    Giroc: [Laughs] At least you're not stupid.
    Blake: Another reason why I didn't kill Travis — I would have enjoyed it.
    Sinofar: Perhaps there was nothing for you to learn.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Vila says they'll have the Federation after them until the day they die. Gan points out they've been lucky so far. Gan is the first of the Seven to die, but Vila's prediction is right too.
    • Travis cruelly dismisses the mutoid who failed, even though she has no purpose outside her service to the Federation. Travis himself ends up being held The Scapegoat for his failure to capture Blake, and has to go on the run from the Federation he's dedicated his life to.
  • We Will Meet Again: The episode ends on Travis ordering his spacecraft to follow Blake's course. "You see he made one fatal error. He should have killed me."
  • Whole Plot Reference: The episode was inspired by the Star Trek episode "Arena".
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?
    • Averted; when transported down to the planet Travis tries to shoot Blake straight away, but finds his Arm Cannon doesn't work, because the Guardian has deactivated it.
    • The mutoid could have killed Jenna with a machete, but tries to feed on her instead as she's starving.
  • Women Are Wiser: Averted as Giroc is just as prone to the old passion for violence that lead to war.
  • World of Snark
    Vila: How can you doubt me?
    Blake: It isn't easy, but somehow I manage it.
    • Avon too, of course.
    Vila: How can you sleep with all this happening?
    Avon: With all what happening? Blake is sitting up in a tree, Travis is sitting up in another tree. Unless they're planning to throw nuts at one another, I don't see much of a fight developing before it gets light.
  • You Have Failed Me
    Travis: Your failure cost me Blake.
    Mutoid: I warned you that my function would be impaired, Commander.
    Travis: Well, perhaps the court martial will take that into account, but I doubt it. Tell me, what happens to a mutoid that's dismissed the service?
    Travis: Oh? Then you'll probably cease to exist.
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