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Recap / Blakes Seven S 2 E 11 Gambit

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If you don't know who he is, there's a photo of him in the next scene.
Written by Robert Holmes.
Directed by George Spenton-Foster.
Airdate: 20 March 1979.

Blake is seeking a fugitive cybersurgeon called Docholli (the only person who knows the location of Star One) in the neutral gambling haven of Freedom City. Docholli is being bodyguarded by Travis, lying in wait for Blake, but he in turn gets caught up in the rival schemes of Servalan and Krantor, the criminal boss of Freedom City. The situation is further complicated by Avon and Vila who decide to rob the Freedom City casino with the help of Orac.


This episode has the following tropes:

  • Alien Lunch: "Try a pataki cake. They contain the distilled venom of a local reptile, and the effects are highly stimulating."
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Docholli now works as this — the episode opens with a disgruntled former patient trying to kill him before Travis shoots the gun from his hand.
  • Badass Cape: Travis, with a nice hat to go with it.
  • Batman Gambit: Servalan wants Krantor to get the location of Star One from Docholli. The information would be of no use to a professional crime boss, but the Federation High Council will think he's too dangerous to live and shut down Freedom City permanently.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: Travis vs Cevedic — first with Travis throwing his cape across the camera and a cut to a Shadow Discretion Shot as Cevedic's men put the boot in. The next battle is a Sound-Only Death as Travis shoots Cevedic and his minions.
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  • Blatant Lies: Vila and Avon, just back from busting the Freedom City casino, are still wearing their guns and teleport bracelets when Blake & co. come up to the ship, so their nonchalant act is hilariously unconvincing. Then Orac abruptly returns to full size on the teleport console.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Servalan quietly reveals the microphone hidden on an unconscious Travis to her minion Jarriere, and the two proceed to lay out their plan for planting on a bomb on Travis for Krantor's ears.
  • Call-Back: Mention is made of Space City from "Shadow".
  • Camp: Everyone who works in the Big Wheel. For once averted with Travis, as he's not wearing his familiar tight leather.
  • Casino Episode: For Avon and Vila, anyway.
  • Cat Fight: Cally and Jenna stage a catfight in a crowded bar as a distraction so Blake can slip into the room where Docholli was hidden.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Krantor, and the Croupier.
  • The City Narrows: The Rink.
  • Counting to Three: The episode opens with a disgruntled patient who's going to shoot Docholli on the count of three. Travis shoots the gun from his hand on two.
    Docholli: Thanks. Next time don't leave it so late.
  • Cruel Mercy
    Travis: All right, Blake, if you're man enough, kill me now.
    Blake: Our quarrel is with the Federation, not with you.
    Blake: That would be mercy. Are you feeling particularly merciful?
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Servalan negotiates with Krantor, the criminal overlord of Freedom City. Once free of each other's presence, both parties make their true feelings known:
    • Servalan re Krantor: "When the Federation finally cleans out this cesspit, I shall have that vulpine degenerate eviscerated with a small and very blunt knife."
    • Krantor re Servalan: "One of these days, Toise, I am going to have Supreme Commander high-and-mighty Servalan ravaged until she does not know what month she's in!"
  • Deadly Euphemism
    Cevedic: You're being collected. We're Krantor's rubbish collectors.
  • Deadly Game: The challenger plays speed chess with the Klute. If he wins he gets a million credits. If he loses the Klute gets the pleasure of turning on the challenger's electric chair.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Krantor is strongly implied to be same-sex lovers with his sidekick Toise, but flirts heavily with Servalan as well.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: Servalan endangers the security of the entire Federation just because she despises Krantor and Freedom City.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: Servalan is all business, turning down several invitations from Krantor to indulge herself (which of course could give him blackmail material over her).
  • Dramatic Unmask: Servalan is introduced holding a carnivale mask in front of her face.
  • Evil Laugh: The Klute after killing Thrylce.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Averted when Krantor thinks the idea of Travis wearing an eye patch is amusingly quaint.
  • Fixing the Game: While Blake and the others are playing hero, Avon and Vila play hooky to rob the Freedom City casino with the help of Orac. The casino owners then try to get their money back by conning Vila into a Deadly Game.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: The Incredible Shrinking Orac would have come in useful for taking their Magical Computer on missions. Then again having successfully 'demonstrated' the technique of molecular reduction, perhaps Orac simply refused to do it again.
  • Gambit Pileup: Servalan vs Krantor vs Travis vs Blake, with Avon/Vila running their own scheme in the middle.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Thrylce getting the electric chair somehow causes him to vanish in a puff of smoke.
  • Got Volunteered: Krantor gets Vila drunk and talks him into playing one more game for double-or-nothing. He left out the fact that it's a Deadly Game.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen:
    • Blake says they should look for Docholli in some dive on the Rink. When the others point out that a top Federation cybersurgeon would have money and could sell also his skill, Blake points out that his time on the run would still have drained his resources.
    "When you've been on the run for as long as Docholli has, everything costs: false identity papers, phony visas. I mean no one's going to stick out their neck helping him unless they stick out their hand first."
  • In Harm's Way: There's a fortune stashed on the Liberator, so Avon and Vila really have no need for the money they steal except for the thrill they get from stealing it. Avon himself points out that for a gambler death is the ultimate thrill, implying they're the same.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Krantor greeting Servalan.
  • Insistent Terminology: Servalan is a Supreme Commander, while Blake is a political criminal, not a revolutionary.
  • Is That a Threat?
    Krantor: My dear Commander, there are many wanted men here. They come to Freedom City because we are outside the Federation.
    Servalan: Not very far outside.
    Krantor: I do hope that is not as threatening as it sounds. That would be ... most unwise.
  • Lady in Red: Instead of her usual white or black outfits, Servalan wears a red dress for this foray outside the Federation.
  • Large-Ham Announcer: The croupier announcing SPEEEEEEED CHESS!
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Averted when suggested by Jenna for searching the Rink.
  • Masquerade Ball: For once everyone has an excuse to wear an Impractically Fancy Outfit!
  • Meaningful Echo: Vila repeats his sardonic "makes it seem all worthwhile" line from "Bounty".
  • Miss Kitty: Chenie (that would also make her a former Hooker with a Heart of Gold, as she aids Docholli with no monetary motive for doing so).
  • Multi-Part Episode: "Gambit", "The Keeper" and "Star One".
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: None of the actors seem to know how to pronounce Cevedic.
  • Not Worth Killing: Servalan uses this as an excuse for not killing Travis when he has supposedly outlived his usefulness (actually because he's carrying a bomb).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Blake lets Travis live as a Cruel Mercy. As the next two episodes show, that's a really big mistake.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • Krantor can't take the winnings off Vila by force, as all his thugs are away searching for Travis and Docholli.
    • Servalan never primes the bomb hidden in Travis' arm. In doing so she not only misses out on a chance to kill Blake, she leaves Docholli alive to provide Blake with the information he needs.
  • Oddball in the Series: The only episode of the show to have its soundtrack composed by someone other than Dudley Simpson, who was on holiday at the time, resulting in the job being taken up by sound effects designer Elizabeth Parker.note 
  • Price on Their Head: Servalan offers two million credits for Travis and Docholli, dead or alive. Krantor demands ten. They eventually settle on eight million. It's all meaningless anyway, as the goal is simply to get Krantor interested in whatever valuable information Docholli possesses.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The Klute's only reward for playing Speed Chess is being allowed to incinerate his losing rivals via an electric chair. And considering his reaction when he barbecues Thrylce, that's all the reward he needs.
  • Reclining Reigner: Krantor lies on his bed a lot when hatching his evil schemes.
  • Reverse Psychology: Avon and Vila express open scepticism that Orac can shrink itself, so the egocentric computer will go along with their Zany Scheme.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Krantor has a Persian cat like a certain other famous crime boss.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Thrylce dies to show the stakes in the Deadly Game.
  • Series Continuity Error: A possible version when Cally knows that Chenie is lying; it was established in her introductory episode that she can't read minds. But she might have just guessed it, or have some low-level empathic ability.
  • Shrink Ray: Orac uses 'molecular reduction' to shrink itself to a more unobtrusive size so Avon can carry the computer inside the casino.
  • Space Clothes: The Trantinian captain wears a silver spacesuit. Avon also wears silver, but given what everyone else in Freedom City is wearing, it actually looks conservative.
  • Space Western: Docholli is inspired by Doc Holliday, while Travis is The Gunslinger and Chenie the Soiled Dove.
  • Spit Take: Avon spits out the food he's eating when Vila (who has been drugged) is lead onto the casino stage to play the Klute at speed chess, thereby risking both his life, if he loses, and their substantial winnings.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Averted for once; unlike previous episodes this season, Blake takes Jenna and Cally down to the planet with him and orders Avon and Vila to stay on the Liberator and man the teleport. However, unlike the women in previous episodesnote , the men disregard Blake's orders and travel down to Freedom City for some illicit money-making.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: For a casino the security against cheating is awful, as Vila is wearing an obvious communication device on his wrist while winning seven times in a row. Krantor hardly needs a pretext for shutting down the game.
  • Taking You with Me: A dying Cevedic taunts Travis that he has a choice of a slow death from gangrene or getting blown up when Docholli operates on his Artificial Limb. Travis still gets Docholli to operate on it, no doubt hoping to blow up Blake with him. But the bomb in his arm is not armed, as Servalan wants Docholli captured alive.
  • Tear Off Your Face: Cevedic threatens to tear off Chenie's face if she's lying to her.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Avon/Vila and Blake/Cally/Jenna.
  • Vice City: Freedom City is a haven of decadence and corruption. For someone like Servalan it's an abhorrence that should be wiped off the map as soon as possible.
  • Video Phone: Krantor has one in the mirrors on his dresser.
  • The Watson: Jarriere is there as someone for Servalan to explain her Evil Plan to (not that he understands it) because she can't use Travis for that role. Their exact relationship is not explained — he's not attractive enough to be one of her 'decorative staff men', yet Servalan confides to him secrets that could get her charged with treason and he's shown relaxing in her presence a lot more than others would, implying that Jarriere is a family friend or trusted retainer.
  • We Need a Distraction: Cally and Jenna stage a Cat Fight in a dive bar so Blake can slip into the back room.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: Servalan implants a microgrenade in Travis' cybernetic arm, deactivating the arm so he'll be forced to contact Docholli to get it working again. However the bomb was never primed allowing Docholli and Travis to survive, as Servalan intended to let Docholli be captured by Krantor.
  • You Know Too Much: Docholli realised that having wiped the memories of the technicians who knew where Star One is, Servalan would not risk the possibility that he had copied their brain patterns beforehand. He faked the operation on the last patient, and they both fled the Federation.