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Recap / Blakes Seven S 4 E 11 Orbit

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With hair like that, he's got to be a Mad Scientist.
Written by Robert Holmes.
Directed by Brian Lighthill.
Airdate: 7 December 1981.

A renegade scientist called Egrorian has invented the ultimate weapon, and is willing to give it to the Seven in exchange for Orac. But Avon suspects that Servalan is behind it all, and so an intricate game ensues with both parties trying to outsmart the other. Before the episode is over, Avon will have to decide just how much he's willing to sacrifice for his own self-interest.

This episode has the following tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Egrorian drops a serious hint that he'd like to be Servalan's consort and co-ruler. Servalan, who's been entirely willing to play along with such suggestions in the past, really isn't interested in having a balding middle-aged Mad Scientist with facial warts as her Hot Consort.
  • All According to Plan: Avon reprograms the autoshuttle so they can pilot it manually but Egrorian takes this entirely in stride, pointing out to Servalan that it's a countermove he'd expect from any competent pilot, let alone a computer expert like Avon.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Averted; Egrorian and Pinder are hiding in a domed survival station due to the hostile environment. Not that Earthlike planets are any more appealing.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Though not to Servalan, who approves of Egrorian's plotting, even if it was against her.
  • And Then What?: Avon says that with his new superweapon Egrorian could destroy the Federation himself, but Egrorian points out that would only leave a power vacuum, which a Rebel Leader is needed to fill.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse
    Avon: Oh, that sounds unpleasantly like a threat.
    Egrorian: It is a threat. Like you, I have a price on my head. So, having revealed my little sanctuary, I cannot allow you and your colleagues to leave. Not, at any rate, until we've reached an agreement.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The shuttle is being weighed down by a tiny speck of material from a neutron star.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Our heroes have survived to fight another day, but the Game Changer that could have brought victory is destroyed, and Avon's relationship with Vila is permanently damaged.
  • Blatant Lies: "Vila? Vila, I need your help..."
  • Bottle Episode: Takes place on Scorpio, Egroian's base, and the shuttle, with Egrorian and Pinder being the only guest characters. It's also the only episode to, apart from model shots, be shot entirely on video.
  • Braids of Action: Soolin
  • Chekhov's Gun: Two in the same scene. Although told not to bring weapons, Avon hides a pistol behind a hatch on the autoshuttle taking them down. Also behind the hatch is a trolley. Both the pistol and the trolley become important during the episode's climax.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Egrorian discusses Hoffal's radiation and neutron material with Avon.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Large Ham is expected of a Mad Scientist, but Egrorian goes all out when groveling before Servalan.
    Egrorian: Servalan, my Steel Queen, my Empress! [drops to his knees] The only reward I crave is a place in your affections.
    Servalan: [Oh, Crap! look] But you already have that, Egrorian! Ten years ago I risked my position to help you continue your work.
    Egrorian: [Milking the Giant Cow] And not a DAY has passed since then that I have not YEARNED for the time, when I would be able to repay your trust by laying all the world and the galaxy at your feet!
    Servalan: Oh, get up!
  • Cold Equation: Inspired by the Trope Namer.
    • Avon and Vila are on a shuttle desperately trying to achieve escape velocity. They throw out everything they can but are short seventy kilos. It turns out that the shuttle is being weighed down by a piece of super-dense matter. Once Avon finds it all he has to do is push it out the airlock - if he can, because it's so damn heavy. Trouble is, he can't get Vila to help him because he's scared Vila into hiding.
    Avon: Not enough, not nearly enough! DAMMIT! What weighs 70 kilos?!
    Orac: Vila weighs 73 kilos, Avon.
    Avon: (pulling out a handgun) Vila...
    • Servalan pulls her own version when she tells Egrorian that her spacecraft only has room for two and a limited fuel capacity, so Pinder will have to be left behind. Egrorian is considerably less bothered about it than Avon.
  • Come Alone: Egrorian insists that Avon come alone, unarmed and without a teleport bracelet so he won't try and steal the MacGuffin. Given that Egrorian has someone with him, Avon is able to bargain for an extra person to come along. He volunteers Vila.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Avon and Vila are on a shuttle that can't reach escape velocity because it's too heavy. They strip the shuttle of everything they can throw out the airlock, but are short 70 kilos. Which happens to be just under Vila's weight. As Vila crouches terrified behind a hatch, Avon stalks through the shuttle with a handgun, calling softly, "Vila? Vila, I need your help..."
  • Crazy-Prepared: Avon had built a fake Orac months before. Justified given the amount of times Servalan has tried to get her hands on it. "Contingency planning, Vila. And the contingency arose."
  • Cruel Mercy: Servalan makes it clear to Egrorian that she doesn't tolerate failure. However when the plan does fail, Servalan decides it would be a more fitting punishment to leave him alive, knowing what he might have been.
  • Crying Wolf: Egrorian tries to kill Avon and Vila by overloading their shuttle so it won't reach escape velocity. They strip the shuttle of everything they can throw out the airlock but are still short 70 kilos. The computer then helpfully informs Avon that Vila weighs 73 kilos. Vila promptly hides himself while Avon stalks him with a gun in his hand saying, "Come out. Vila, I know how they did it, but I need your help." Then Avon really does discover how they weighed down the shuttle — by hiding a speck of super-dense matter on board — and needs help pushing it out the airlock. Vila of course refuses to come out of hiding, and Avon barely manages it in time.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Egrorian points out that having come all this way to find a scientist who's been missing for ten years, Avon is hardly going to leave without finding out what he's got to offer.
  • Deadpan Snarker
    Egrorian: Now, then, Avon. What would you say if I offered you mastery of the galaxy?
    Avon: Oh, I would say thank you.
    • Not that Vila is left out.
      Pinder: I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, ma'am.
      Vila: [To Avon] I think he's talking to you.
  • Death Glare: Vila stares coldly at Avon throughout the final scene on Scorpio.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Although initially he's very closely attached to his one-time student Pinder, Egrorian has no problems blowing him off in favour of a relationship with Servalan.
  • Destructive Romance: Now that Pinder has aged far beyond the beauty of youth, Egrorian just gets his kicks through bullying and tormenting his former lover. Pinder goes along with it because he has no-one else, being something of a Hikikomori and having run away with Egrorian to live in isolation. When Pinder realises that Egrorian intends to abandon him, he snaps and kills them both.
  • Do Not Go Gentle
    Orac: Remaining flight time — ten minutes.
    Vila: And another five minutes before we hit. How do you spend your last fifteen minutes?
    Avon: Working. Working like we have never worked before, Vila!
  • Doomsday Device: The Tachyon Funnel.
    Egrorian: It destroys things. Instantly and completely and at any range. It is the ultimate engine of destruction.
  • Evil Gloating: Servalan expresses disappointment that there isn't a video link to the autoshuttle so she can watch Avon die.
  • Evil Is Petty: Once he thinks he has his hands on Orac, Egrorian's first priority is getting revenge on the people who compiled his Central Security file!
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Pinder and Vila both discover they're about to be disposed of.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Our heroes lose another Game Changer MacGuffin, and the only consolation is that power-hungry villains like Servalan and Egrorian don't get it either.
  • False Reassurance: While this is often remembered as the episode where Avon went back on his word (something he's typically very reluctant to do) he didn't actually promise Vila that he would keep him safe. His exact words to Vila were sarcastically quoting Vila's own sarcastic claim that he (Vila) felt safe (see Ironic Echo below)
  • Fixing the Game: Egrorian and Pinder are playing Variant Chess. When one gets checkmate, the other is suspicious and has the computer replay the last few moves, revealing that the 'winner' cheated.
  • Foe Romance Subtext:
    Vila: You're thinking of Servalan again.
    Avon: never far from my thoughts.
  • Foil: Egorian and Pinder to Avon and Vila, respectively: the egomaniac genius with clearly a few screws loose, and his much-abused, disposable, assistant.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Before handing over Orac, Avon turns on a switch on the computer's side that we've never seen before.
    • In "Games" there's a continuity error in which Orac is shown in two different places at the same time. Fans have speculated that one is the fake Orac that Avon was building.
    • When Vila is told to throw out the trolley he says, "It's plastic, it doesn't weigh anything." Then Avon comes across a cube of high tensile plastic that's very heavy...
  • Giggling Villain: Egrorian and Pinder.
    Servalan: And you say both Orac and the Tachyon Funnel can survive such a crash?
    Egrorian: Yes, even the shuttle will be reusable after a few repairs. Avon and Vila won't survive, of course. They'll be j-j-jellified— [Breaks off laughing. Pinder joins in. Servalan rolls her eyes.]
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Lampshaded by Vila, though it looks like those two were well on the way beforehand.
  • Healthy Green, Harmful Red: Egrorian's weapon detector.
    Egrorian: Red is dead. Green is...?
    Pinder: Clean.
  • Heavier than It Looks: Egrorian weighs the shuttle down by planting a small plastic cube containing a fragment of a neutron star aboard.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Egrorian and Pinder. Although the standards of the time meant that they couldn't actually be called lovers on-screen, scriptwriter Robert Holmes made it as obvious as you can get without outright saying the G-word.
  • Hope Spot: Avon and Vila appear to have outsmarted Egrorian and Servalan with the fake Orac. Then the real Orac reveals they'll never reach escape velocity.
  • If I Were a Rich Man
    Vila: All we have to do is knock out a few planets for target practice, then name our own terms. We can have whatever we want! Think of it.
    Avon: Yes...
    Vila: I'll have an imperial palace with solid diamond floors, and a bodyguard of a thousand handpicked virgins in red fur uniforms. Vila's Royal Mounties.
    Avon: You're dreaming again.
    Vila: A man has a right to dream. Anyway, what's to stop us? I suppose it will get boring after the first fifty years, eh?
  • Ironic Echo:
    Vila: It's a trip I won't forget, Avon.
    Avon: Well, as you always say, Vila — you know you are safe with me. [cut to credits]
    • A simple rhyme "Green is clean, red is dead" is used when Pinder is manning the scanner. Later Pinder pushes a Big Red Button and the room is flooded with Hoffal's Radiation. "Red is dead, remember? I reversed the fields!"
  • Kneel Before Zod: Egrorian grovelling before his Steel Queen. It becomes too much even for Servalan.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Orac is just a box of flashing lights!
  • Locked in a Room: Darkly subverted.
  • Mad Scientist: Egrorian, right down to being power-mad.
  • Made of Indestructium: The plan is for the autoshuttle to crash in a marshy area after it runs out of fuel. The impact will kill Avon and Vila but Orac, the Tachyon Funnel and even the shuttle will be repairable.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Egrorian on two separate occasions.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Pinder puts up with Egrorian's petty sadism, yet when he finds that Egrorian was going to abandon him he kills them both.
  • Mutual Disadvantage: Both sides have to take precautions at every stage against the other betraying them, especially when it becomes obvious that's exactly what the other side is planning.
    Egrorian: You are a cautious man, Avon.
    Avon: Well that's a habit I hope to live with.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Servalan could have been ruler of the galaxy if she'd just taken the Tachyon Funnel, but she loses it for a chance of killing Avon and getting her hands on Orac.
  • Pull the Thread: Pinder greets Avon with "Pleased to make your acquaintance, ma'am", which is Played for Laughs until Avon thinks it through afterward.
    Avon: He said it as though it were a phrase he had been taught.
    Vila: Maybe Egrorian gives him lessons in etiquette as well as judo.
    Avon: Or maybe he has been taught that that is the way to address a stranger. [dramatic chord] Servalan, for instance.
  • Rapid Aging: Hoffal's radiation turns Pinder into a skeleton and Egrorian into a white-haired corpse.
  • Rebel Relaxation: Avon and Vila with their feet up on the console of the autoshuttle.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Egrorian says he wants Avon to have the weapon because he will crush the Federation ruthlessly.
    Egrorian: Surprisingly, you don't look like the ruthless desperadoes of legend. But you have, of course, killed a great many people.
    Avon: Only in the pursuit of liberty.
    Egrorian: O Liberty! O Liberty! What crimes are committed in your name! Do you know the source?
    Avon: No.
    Egrorian: No, why should you? Natural leaders are rarely encumbered with intelligence. Greed, egotism, animal cunning, and viciousness are the important attributes. Qualities I detect in you in admirably full measure.
    Avon: I didn't come here to be... flattered.
  • Saying Too Much:
    • Egrorian namedrops Servalan, who would be assumed dead by anyone who didn't know otherwise.
    • After Egrorian lectures Avon about neutron matter, Avon says it must be related to the Tachyon Funnel. Egrorian flusters his answer, as it's actually his Evil Plan to bring down the shuttle.
    • Played for laughs during Egrorian's test question to Orac, who reveals that Egrorian's thesis got The B Grade and his degree was later revoked for gross misconduct.
  • Shout-Out: Egrorian quotes Madame Roland. "Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name."
  • Show Some Leg: Vila says that Avon should bring one of the women (instead of him) as it might ease things with Egrorian. Turns out Egrorian finds Vila quite appealing.
  • Sideboob: Servalan provides some fanservice in her black gown.
  • Smart People Play Chess: But that doesn't stop them cheating at it. Given that they're Mad Scientists, perhaps that should be Crazy People Play Chess.
  • Spot the Imposter: To confirm he's really getting Orac, Egrorian asks the computer a question about his degree thesis (the answer turns out to be Too Much Information). But this Orac is indeed a fake, as Avon has installed a relay to the real Orac that's hidden in the shuttle.
  • Teleportation Rescue: Averted; Dayna wants to teleport over with extra bracelets to rescue Avon and Vila, but Tarrant says it's too difficult to teleport between two fast-moving points (they did it in "Gold", but presumably that was because they had time to line up with the other spacecraft first).
  • Tempting Fate:
  • They Called Me Mad!: Egrorian claims he wants revenge on those in the Federation who belittled him and forced him into exile. Turns out he had a far more serious reason for going into hiding, like a failed conspiracy to take over the Federation.
  • This Cannot Be!: While Milking the Giant Cow too.
    Egrorian: How? HOW? There's no way for them to escape!
  • To the Pain: Egrorian twists Pinder's arm after catching him cheating at chess.
    "Can you feel your extensor muscle tearing? Can you feel your humerus grating against your radius? Hmm? Just a little more... a little more... now you're feeling it, aren't you?"
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Played for Laughs at first. Avon: "Why do you think I'm sending Tarrant?" As it becomes obvious that Servalan is involved, our heroes have to go along as Egrorian has made it clear he'll destroy them with the Tachyon Funnel if they just try to leave.
  • Trilling R: Egrorian. "This is a grrrreat honor for us."
  • Troll: Avon after volunteering Vila for the mission. "Vila, if I didn't know you better, I would think you were trying to get out of this." Later when Egrorian says he'd be really interested in seeing Vila again after all this is over, Avon gleefully says he'll pass on the message.
  • Variant Chess: Egrorian and Pinder are playing with chess pieces that look like identical plastic cylinders. Avon wants to know how they tell the king from the queen (given their Homoerotic Subtext, that might be a Stealth Pun).
  • Video Phone: Avon insists on a video transmission to verify that he really is speaking to Egrorian (justified given how Servalan lured him with a fake audio message in "Terminal"). Egrorian complies though he's not happy as the Federation monitors such messages.
  • We Can Rule Together: This time Servalan is on the receiving end, and she's not happy. For once she gives an honest answer — she doesn't have to share power with anyone.
  • Wham Line: Orac drops two of them.
    • "The escape velocity of this vehicle is now confirmed at Mach 15. [beat] And unattainable!" [dramatic chord]
    • "Vila weighs 73 kilos, Avon."
  • What You Are in the Dark: Avon unfortunately shows his Character Development is not enough to outweigh his self-preservation.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Inspired by The Cold Equations, though not Recycled In Space this time as the Trope Namer was in space too. Robert Holmes avoids the contrived circumstances of the original story by having it be the result of sabotage rather than No OSHA Compliance.
  • You Fool!: The Orac swapped for the Tachyon Funnel turns out to be a fake with a transmitter relay to the real Orac.
    Servalan: You pathetic fool. That isn't Orac! It's just a box of flashing lights! I warned you about Avon, and he still tricked you. I will kill you for this!
  • You Have Failed Me: Lampshaded
    Servalan: Just remember, I punish failure as quickly as I reward success.
  • Younger Than They Look: Pinder is a white-haired old man despite being 28 years old. He was exposed to Hoffal's Radiation for less than a millionth of a second, enough to age him fifty years in as many seconds.