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Recap / Blakes Seven S 2 E 9 Countdown

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"Before anyone starts shooting, let's check who's on which side."
Written by Terry Nation.
Directed by Vere Lorrimer.
Airdate: 6 March 1979.

The crew of the Liberator go to the planet Albian seeking Space Major Provine, a Federation officer who once worked at Central Control and may know its current location. They discover that Albian is in revolt and Provine has activated a Doomsday Device that will kill everyone on the planet. While Blake and the rebels track down Provine, Avon has to disarm the bomb with the help of Del Grant, a rebel mercenary who has a vendetta against him.

This episode has the following tropes:

  • Alone with the Psycho: The rebels are searching for a Federation officer, who unknown to them has killed a rebel and stolen his uniform. Because this man and other Federation troops are still prowling around, Blake is assigned a bodyguard. Of course the bodyguard turns out to be the disguised Federation officer, which the rebels only realise when they finally locate the officer's file with his photograph.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Weaponised when the rebels drop bombs down the airshafts to disrupt operations in the levels below. One of them causes a cave-in that stops Provine getting to his escape rocket.
  • Appeal to Force: When Albian legally demanded their independence, the Federation hid a Doomsday Device on the planet and threatened to detonate it if they rebelled.
  • Birds of a Feather: Del Grant and Avon are both ostensible mercenaries who are Not in This for Your Revolution, but show Hidden Depths of courage and loyalty.
  • Bomb Disposal: Avon has to defuse a Doomsday Device that could kill everyone on the planet. He could teleport out at any time and save himself, but not everyone else.
  • Captain Obvious: Grant tells Avon he has to be careful using the thermal lance or he'll trigger the bomb. Avon just gives him a look and Grant leaves Avon to get on with it.
  • Cat Scare: While trying to disarm the bomb, a rebel technician drops his probe into the wiring.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Vila opens the launch doors so the audience will know why they're so important later on.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: Averted; the timer is not the bomb. It's just a transmitter to the bomb which could be located anywhere up to ten thousand miles away.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Albian (legally) demanded its independence, the Federation installed a solium radiation device, threatening to kill everyone on the planet in the face of a major insurrection.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The solium device resembles the propaganda against the Neutron Bomb — that it was a 'capitalist' weapon designed to kill people while leaving buildings intact to be used later.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Provine hides his identity card and later strips a rebel he's killed of his clothing. It backfires when he's called away by a rebel commander to join the search for himself. But later a rebel is assigned to escort Blake to the rocketship. Guess who that turns out to be...
  • Dying Clue: After Provine is shot, Blake promises him medical care if he reveals the current location of the Federation Master Computer. Provine doesn't know where it is, but does provide the next clue in their search, which is followed up in "Gambit".
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Sergeant Selson does make an effort to deter Provine from activating the bomb, arguing that the bomb will kill millions and they still have a chance of holding off the rebels.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Averted. Provine offers rebel soldier Arrian the chance to escape with him, offering a position of power in the Federation resettlement of Albian. Arrian turns him down, pointing out all his friends and family will die, and he's not helping the man who'd murder an entire world to escape.
  • Faceless Goons: The rebels wear balaclavas while fighting the Gas Mask Mooks, presumably to hide their identity.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Albians were loyal members of the Federation until they were alienated due to the Federation exploiting their economy, refusing them a voice in their own government and — when they tried to legally secede from the Federation — placing the planet under martial law and threatening genocide if they rebelled.
  • Fake Kill Scare: Vila races to warn Blake about Provine, who's currently in a Gun Struggle with Blake. Vila hears a gunshot and Provine walks out of the launch bay... only to collapse at Vila's feet.
  • Foreshadowing
  • Going Down with the Ship: or Going Up With The Planet, in this case.
    Blake: Thank you. Cauder, if there's still no news from Avon when that countdown goes below fifty, I'm pulling out.
    Cauder: I understand. To stay with us would be a stupid gesture.
    Blake: I can take some of you off with me.
    Cauder: No, not for me. I'll stay here till the end. Ralli can go if she likes.
    Ralli: No, I'll stay.
  • His Name Is...: Provine dies before revealing where Docholli is, but Blake manages to track him down anyway in "Gambit".
  • Honour Before Reason: Blake decides to teleport his crew up to the Liberator if they can't defuse the bomb in time. Avon and Grant remove their teleport bracelets, so Blake stays down on the planet as well despite a nervous Vila tugging at his arm. When Grant is trapped under the rubble, Avon refuses to leave him and attempts to deactivate the last detonator with the last few seconds ticking down.
  • Hope Spot: A rebel technician cuts a wire, causing the timer to stop...for a moment. Avon later reveals that the bomb was never in the control room — it's just a transmitter to send the activation signal. The bomb could be anywhere else on the planet.
  • Hypocritical Humour: While waiting on the Liberator with their colleagues facing death down on the surface, Jenna tells off Cally for nervously tapping the console, while at the same time we can see Jenna's fingers twitching as well.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Avon clearly harbours guilt over the death of Anna Grant, who chose to be tortured to death rather than betray Avon.
  • I'll Kill You!: Del Grant has sworn to kill Avon, convinced he abandoned his sister to save himself. Blake in turn makes it clear that if anything happens to Avon, he'll come after Grant.
  • In Medias Res: The episode opens right in the middle of the battle between the rebels and Federation troops.
  • Irrevocable Order: Once the bomb has been activated, there's no way of turning it off. Provine orders a soldier to wait four minutes so they can get to the launch bay before arming it, then follow as quickly as possible. The rebels break into the room before then, so Provine doesn't have a chance to cancel the order when he finds the tunnel blocked.
  • It's the Only Way: Avon finds the bomb frozen over with ice, which he has to melt with a thermal lance despite the risk as it's too thick to cut through with an ice axe.
  • Leave No Man Behind
    • Blake tells Avon he will teleport him up to the Liberator if he hasn't defused the bomb before the counter reaches 50. Avon and Grant take off their teleport bracelets so this doesn't happen.
    • Grant blames Avon for leaving his sister behind to be captured and tortured to death by Federation Security. Avon says that he was wounded and unconscious, so was unable to get a message to her. Grant doesn't believe him until Avon shows his willingness to risk his life to defuse the bomb instead of teleporting to safety.
  • Never Tell Me the Odds!: Averted; Provine runs their situation through his battle computer. Faced with a 93% probability that they'll be overrun, he orders Selson to activate the bomb.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Avon and Grant wear face shields with transparent visors when using a thermal lance.
  • Patriotic Fervour
    Selson: The Albians have broken though into the outer gallery, sir. The field commander reports that despite severe losses, our men are putting up a courageous defence.
    Provine: Yes, spare me the propaganda, Selson.
  • Private Military Contractors: Realising he needed an expert to coordinate the attack given the stakes, Cauder hired Del Grant, a mercenary who had planned other rebellions. He demanded a high fee though Cauder suggests that is mostly down to ego, to show he was better than anyone else the rebels could have hired.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Arrian capturing Provine, as the rebels want him alive in the (false) hope that he can deactivate the bomb.
  • Race Against the Clock: The bomb will detonate in under an hour. Naturally it's defused Just in Time.
  • Reaction Shot: Avon hearing Del Grant's name.
  • Retro Rocket: The escape rocket. It's quite small, but that's because it's only meant to launch and either rendezvous with another spacecraft or return when the radiation has died down.
  • Secret Underground Passage: There's a hidden passage leading from the control room to the escape rocket's launch bay. But it becomes blocked by a cave-in.
  • See You in Hell: Blake's Bond One-Liner when Provine dies before telling him where Docholli is. Given Provine's actions, there's no doubt he'll end up there.
  • So Much for Stealth: When Vila demonstrates the launch doors, the others gripe that maybe there was someone who didn't hear that.
  • Space Clothes: The thermal suits return.
  • Space "X": Space Major, Space Assault Force, space hours, space heater... oh wait...
  • Spanner in the Works
    • The secret tunnel to the escape rocket collapses. When Provine makes his way back to the control room, the bomb has been activated and the room is full of rebels actively searching for him to disarm it. He waits till there's only one rebel in the control room, knocks out her and makes his way to the launch bay, only to find the rebels have sabotaged the doors. Provine dresses as a rebel and goes to find a spare part that will fix the damage, only to be taken under the command of a rebel officer as he's returning to the launch bay.
    • The bomb is activated by three plunger detonators. Avon has deactivated two of them when a roof collapse buries Grant under rubble. Unfortunately Grant dropped the tiny rod they were going to use to stop the plunger firing. Avon pulls a nail from a piece of rubble and uses that instead.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Cally and Jenna stay up on the Liberator manning the teleport. The Squadette among the rebels is assigned clean-up operations.
  • Taking You with Me: The rebels burst into the control room and shoot the Federation soldier left behind to detonate the bomb. Fatally wounded, he's still able to push the Big Red Button.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Grant and Avon agree to put aside their issues while working together to deactivate the bomb.
  • We Need a Distraction: When supposedly activating the door control, Provine fires up the rocket's engine instead, causing the rebel holding him at gunpoint to Look Behind You.
  • Wham Line:
  • What You Are in the Dark: Grant points out that no-one will blame Avon if he teleports to safety having failed to defuse the bomb in time. Instead Avon stays until the very last second.
  • World of Snark
    • Vila Got Volunteered for the mission (as usual) and isn't happy (as usual).
    Avon: Doesn't it make you feel good to be wanted?
    Vila: I've been a wanted man all my life. What I need now is to be unwanted.
    Vila: You see — the old magic's still there.
    Avon: The old ego, too
    • Vila is cracking the safe with the Federation files.
    Vila: Watch this: it should open like a dream.
    [the safe opens with an explosion]
    Blake: More like a nightmare.
    • While defusing the bomb.
    Grant: I must be getting old.
    Avon: Waste any more time and you won't get any older.
  • Your Other Left: Played for Drama
    Avon: We're going to have to take out the relays to get at the activator. Which one is it first? Left, right, or centre?
    Grant: Centre first.
    Avon: Cutters. [Grant passes him the cutters. Avon cuts the centre wire] Which next?
    Grant: Right next. No, no, wait! I'm opposite you now. Left is the next in sequence. Your left.