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Recap / Blakes Seven S 3 E 12 Death Watch

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"Wow, you look just like your brother."
Written by Chris Boucher.
Directed by Gerald Blake.
Airdate: 24 March 1980.

"So that's the ultimate excitement. Murder without guilt, death without loss."
Del Tarrant

The United Planets of Teal and the Vandor Confederacy wage ritual war in a Combat by Champion. When Tarrant's twin brother is killed during the latest combat game, he decides to take on the killer.

This episode has the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: The Deeta/Vinni combat takes place in the derelict Wembley Exhibition Halls. Fortunately they didn't run into CI5 while they were there.
  • Anachronism Stew: The Champions use magnum revolvers for their duel.
  • Aside Glance: Servalan looks at the camera when quipping, "After all, it's not a major violation."
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: Vila is saying that Orac should be redesigned into something useful, like an empty space. Just then the announcer starts pontificating: "Space the final frontier..."
  • Blatant Lies
    Servalan: Scrupulous fairness is one of my small, personal obsessions.
  • Busman's Holiday: The crew of the Liberator decide they need a break. Of course, the place they go to just happens to have Servalan running her latest scheme.
  • But Liquor Is Quicker
    Vila: I'm going to be thrilled one way or another. [Furtive glances at Dayna] Have a drink, Dayna.
    Dayna: Do you know your most attractive quality, Vila?
    Vila: [Eagerly] No. What?
    Dayna: Your subtlety.
  • Call-Back:
    • Reference is made to Dayna hunting primitives with bow & arrow, and the death of her father ("Aftermath").
    • Avon makes a snide comment that Orac is worth every penny that Servalan almost paid for it ("Deliverance").
  • Catharsis Factor: In-Universe
    Max: It's a release that we all share. A catharsis. We all fight the war, but only one man actually dies.
  • Chrome Champion: The Champions wear silver Space Clothes.
  • Combat by Champion: Two planetary systems fight wars this way, with the losing side surrendering a couple of planets and a large part of their spacefleet. They each select a champion whose Duel to the Death is televised for entertainment, but one side cheats by using an android with a faster Quick Draw.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Seven just happen to pick a holiday spot where Del Tarrant's brother and Servalan are, as opposed to Del wanting to go there to support his brother in the Games, or to find out what Servalan is up to.
  • Coup de GrĂ¢ce: Vinni slowly walks up to Deeta and puts a bullet in his head, then everything goes white.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Steven Pacey wanted more lines, so an episode was written where he could play both himself and the guest star!
  • Deadly Deferred Conversation: As he's focused on the upcoming duel, Deeta puts off talking to the brother he hasn't seen in years till after the Games. So he has to deliver a dying message to Del as Vinni is walking up to kill him, with millions of spectators listening in.
  • Deadly Game: Though in this case the combatants are volunteers, and the Games are Serious Business in Vandor-Teal as they're used to solve political disputes and avert total war.
  • Deliberately Jumping the Gun:
    • Worried that he might beat their champion regardless, the Vandor Confederacy try to kill Deeta the moment war has been declared, but before Deeta has heard the news.
    • Orac hacks into the game computers to find out which environment Del Tarrant is about to enter.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Our heroes' idea of a holiday is to watch two men attempt to kill one another. Cally is the only one turned off by the concept.
  • Dies Wide Open: Subverted; Dayna puts her sonic lance to Servalan's head and tells her to close her she can know exactly how her father felt when she killed him (by blinding him first).
  • Disintegrator Ray: Del Tarrant uses a Ray Gun that Dayna invented to obliterate Vinni, destroying the evidence that he was an android and so averting war.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Max when Deeta points a gun at him while they're linked, as he's experiencing Deeta's professional detachment.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Like the films The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968) and Death Watch (1980), this episode anticipates the craze for Reality TV.
  • Do I Really Sound Like That?: "Is that how I look?"
  • Double-Meaning Title: A death watch is a vigil for those who are expected to die (in this case, Max looking after Deeta as he prepares for combat), but it also refers to the audience watching and experiencing the death of the combatants.
  • Duels Decide Everything: Blood feuds and duelling are part of the culture of Vandor and Teal, hence the Combat by Champion as a substitute for war. Del uses this to challenge Vinni, declaring a blood feud for the death of his brother.
  • Evil Is Petty: Vinni isn't just a professional killer who turns out to be a robot - he's also a complete dick about it.
  • Evil Plan: The First Champion for Vandor is actually an android. As Neutral Arbiter, Servalan can insist on a medical checkup after Vandor's victory so the deception will be exposed. This will cause a real war between Vandor and Teal, and once both sides have been weakened the Federation will enter to 'restore order', no doubt welcomed by a civilian population unused to such conflicts.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: Dayna fires a warning shot into the medical console that is currently examining Vinni.
  • Exact Words: Avon is going to see a sick friend, and they don't come sicker than Servalan!
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Inverted
    Karla: I've seen you on the viscasts of course, but you look different somehow — you're taller than I expected.
    Deeta: I usually stand in a hole.
  • Fixing the Game: Two planetary systems use a Combat by Champion in lieu of warfare. One side cheats by using a Ridiculously Human Robot that is faster than its opponent. Actually the real plan is to expose the fraud and start a war for real. So before this can happen Tarrant challenges the android to another duel, and again Orac is used to hack into the computers so Tarrant knows which battleground he's entering, giving him a momentary advantage in setting up an ambush.
  • Foe Romance Subtext
    Avon: Oh, no, not "naturally", Madam President. You do not NATURALLY answer a question from an enemy who has no NATURAL right to ask it.
    Servalan: But I don't think of you as an enemy, Avon. I think of you as a future friend.
    Avon: [puts his arm about Servalan and pulls her against him] Your plan had better be fireproof, Servalan, or I'll see you burn with it. [snog passionately]
  • Forced to Watch: Del not only witnesses his brother's death, he experiences it right up to the Boom, Headshot!
  • Forceful Kiss: Not that Servalan seems to mind.
  • Futuristic Superhighway: Max and Deeta travel in a high-speed sub-surface shuttle.
  • Hates Being Touched: After Max shakes Avon's hand, the latter looks at his own palm in distaste.
  • History Repeats:
    • Servalan used an android posing as a human in "Project Avalon".
    • Restoring order after a conflict the Federation secretly started sounds a lot like the Lindor Strategy in "Bounty".
  • Hitman with a Heart: Deeta only kills in self defence, won't shoot a man In the Back, and isn't happy about the idea that his younger brother might be inspired to follow in his footsteps.
  • Honour Before Reason: Neither Tarrant brother is willing to shoot Vinni from behind.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Right after Orac says the crew needs a break, 100 million credits worth of Master Computer is being used as a drinks counter.
  • Immoral Reality Show: Although the Games are Serious Business for the governments hosting them, it's basically this trope for everyone watching.
  • In the Back: Tarrant refuses to shoot his duel opponent in the back (despite his being an android), prompting cries of "Kill Him Already!". Instead Tarrant calls out his opponent's name, then shoots him when he turns to fire. He is smart enough to be lying down though, so any return shots would miss.
  • It's Personal: Dayna re Servalan. Del re Deeta.
  • Kill Him Already!: Avon can't understand why Del doesn't just shoot the android In the Back.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall
    • On encountering Steven Pacey in a wig instead of his Del Tarrant perm, Karla says he looks different somehow.
    • Servalan does an Aside Glance after snogging Avon.
  • Little "No": Vila when Deeta gets shot.
  • Loophole Abuse
    • The Vandor Confederacy try to assassinate Deeta before he gets to the combat grounds, making the attempt the moment war is declared so it's legal.
    • Dayna puts a gun to Servalan's head and makes her sweat. An assault on an Arbiter is a violation of the rules, but as Dayna has a Blood Feud and didn't actually kill Servalan (which would violate the Truce Zone) she's just Banned from Argo.
    • As the medical checkup ordered by the Neutral Arbiter didn't take place, Teal has the right to declare the duel invalid and insist it be fought again with new Champions. With the medical checkup done prior, this time.
  • Make Games, Not War: Although a Blood Sport for outsiders, the duel is Serious Business as the losing side has to make repatriations as if they'd lost a real war.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: With Flyaway Shot.
    Vinni: Deeta Tarrant is dead! I claim victory for the Vandor Confederacy of Planets!
  • Mood Whiplash: The "breathless solemnity" (to quote Avon) of the announcer is followed by him snarking at the director once the cameras are off.
  • Mundane Utility: Orac gripes about being used to relay viscasts of the duel (they also use him as a drinks tray). Later they find a more effective use for Orac hacking into the battle computer to find out where Tarrant is going to be duelling ahead of time.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught
    Avon: Tarrant. I presume you have no tedious scruples about cheating and lying?
    Del Tarrant: None at all.
    Avon: [evil grin] Oh, good.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot:
    • Vila quips that Servalan's idea of fair play is never to shoot a blind man in the back. Then realises that's exactly what she did to Dayna's father.
      Vila: Wonderful. And for my next trick, I shall swallow my other foot. I completely forgot about your father.
      Dayna: I expect Servalan has, too.
    • And this from a member of the Teal Diplomatic Corp.
      Max: He's a professional killer! That's not exactly the way a normal person would...
      Deeta: Have you ever thought you might be in the wrong business, Max?
  • Playing Their Own Twin: Steven Pacey plays Deeta Tarrant, twin brother of his regular role of Del Tarrant.
  • Quick Draw: Deeta shows his skills in the Batman Cold Open when he outdraws two assassins. During their duel in the Combat Zone, Vinni calls out that they should stop running around trying to shoot each other and face off for a Quick Draw. Deeta agrees even though he's just snuck up behind Vinni and could kill him easily.
  • Railing Kill: Stuntman Stuart Fell lives up to his last name again. He lands on a conveniently placed sofa.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Averted; Avon warns Dayna not to kill Servalan, as she'd be executed for violating the Truce Zone.
  • Robots Are Just Better: Deeta is the better gunfighter — he could have killed Vinni if he didn't have scruples about shooting a man In the Back. But when they face off for the Quick Draw Vinni lets Deeta draw first, then instantly draws his gun and kills him.
  • Save the Villain: At least they have a good excuse this time; if Dayna kills a Neutral Arbiter, both Teal and Vandor would be obliged to kill Dayna (and likely the rest of the Seven) for their violation of the Truce Zone. Furthermore Servalan's battlefleet is massed on the border in a show of strength to ensure no harm comes to her — actually in preparation for the invasion, but killing their President would give the Federation a Pretext for War.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: How the entire population joins in with the duel.
    Max: The sensor net. You don't know about it? Both men have had microsensors implanted in the brain. These are connected to a conductive mesh which is actually etched into the bone of the skull. When this mesh gets charged up, it becomes a sort of transmitter.
    Del Tarrant: Transmitting signals from the microsensors?
    Max: Right. The signals are boosted through the combat computer, and are picked up by these receivers. You put it on your forehead; it's activated through the optic nerves. Close your eyes and it feeds the signal directly into the brain; open them and it cuts out.
  • Series Continuity Error: In "Powerplay", Del had no trouble stabbing someone In the Back, though this occasion may be due to a desire to live up to his older brother.
  • Ship Tease: Vila points out that Dayna and Tarrant are smiling at each other even when they're bickering. Later, Dayna panics over Tarrant's wellbeing after seeing Deeta die.
  • Shoulders of Doom: Avon has huge shoulder pads on his leather jacket.
  • Shout-Out: "Space, the final frontier, as it was once called..."
  • Smash Cut: From from the Quick Draw to Deeta's Slow Motion death to show the speed of Vinni's draw.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: The announcer vs. the director.
    Director: [offscreen] Well, what do you want me to say? It was your usual delicate mixture of enthusiasm and dignified cliche.
    Darvid: I love you too. What's next?
    Director: You mean you've forgotten? I don't know why we bothered to rehearse.
    Darvid: From the way you've been juggling those remotes I didn't think you had.
    Director: If the performer won't move then the camera must.
    Darvid: I thought it might confuse you if I moved.
  • Space Western: The Gunslinger duels the cocky Young Gun, with Servalan as the Robber Baron out to gobble up more land for her empire. The use of anachronistic revolvers in a Quick Draw duel further adds to the trope.
  • Synchronization: The Champions are implanted with microsensors so the audience can experience what they feel.
  • Telepathy: Cally covertly sends a message to Del Tarrant about what battle zone he's about to enter, enabling him to get the drop on Vinni.
  • Title Drop
    Max: I'm sorry, I haven't been much help, have I?
    Deeta: The Death-Watch is never easy, Max. You did well, I'm grateful to you.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Vinni doesn't know he's an android, so has no reason to refuse the medical checkup.
  • Truce Zone: Outsiders are welcomed as honoured guests and neutral observers to the Games, so the Seven are protected from the Federation. Of course, Servalan is also protected from the Seven.
  • Turing Test: Oddly averted. Vinni is an android who fully believes he is human, whose thought processes are apparently convincingly human enough that thousands of people can share them without realising something is up. This raises no questions about his level of sentience whatsoever. (Granted, under the circumstances it's hard to imagine our anti-heroes would have a problem killing him if he was human.)
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Servalan of all people is the Neutral Arbiter.
  • Visible Boom Mic: One shows when Darvid is talking, but given the context (he's the announcer for the Combat Games) it's entirely justified.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Avon notes that a certain arms manufacturer with connections to the Zandor government is likely involved in the scheme to start a war.
  • We Need a Distraction: A woman on the starliner Deeta is travelling on feigns a stumble so her colleague can shoot him In the Back. Deeta isn't fooled.
  • You Killed My Father: Dayna to Servalan.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: As Del Tarrant killed Vinni, that means he's the new First Champion of the United Planets of Teal. For once Avon and Tarrant agree on something...
    Avon/Tarrant: Bring us up, Cally! (Cut to credits)