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Recap / Blakes Seven S 4 E 4 Stardrive

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Written by James Follett.
Directed by David Sullivan Proudfoot.
Airdate: 19 October 1981.

Avon damages Scorpio during a reckless plan to infiltrate a Federation planet. While making repairs, they witness three Federation cruisers destroyed by a one-man spacecraft moving too fast to see. Avon is determined to get his hands on this new technology regardless of the risk, which is considerable as the stardrive is being used by a gang of psychotic space punks.


The episode has the following tropes:

  • Alien Lunch: The Space Rats chomp on lizards.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: The Space Rats are stereotypical outlaw bikers Recycled In Space, although they have huge mohicans and Roy Wood-style facepaint.
  • Ass Kicks You: Bomber does this to Dayna at the end of a rather unconvincing fight scene.
  • As You Know: Avon reiterates his loony plan and the reason for it in Sarcasm Mode, given that everyone is trying to talk him out of it.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: Vila is ranting on about how the Space Rats are total psychos obsessed with sex, drugs, and fast space-choppers. "And the fellas are just as bad."
  • Bittersweet Ending: The crew of Scorpio now have a spacedrive that enables them to outrun Federation ships, but lose another scientist who could have helped the rebels change the balance of power.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Avon tells Dayna and Vila they can't do a Teleportation Rescue as the teleporter isn't working. We then see Avon, who's actually down on the planet's surface with Soolin and Tarrant.
    • Earlier Avon orders Soolin to sober up Vila. You can hear the smirk in her voice when Soolin says she'll try (Vila has already revealed that he faked the whole thing).
  • BBC Quarry: Caspar is a dirty windswept s**thole without a friendly ghost in sight.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • We get a close-up of the door control that Dayna uses to delay the Space Rats from pursuing them.
    • Avon sets up command-detonated mines that he later uses to take out the pursuing Space Rats.
  • Cold Equation: With Federation cruisers closing in on them, Dr. Plaxton says she needs 50 minutes to connect it up. Eventually it comes down to a few seconds they don't have, so Avon ends up sacrificing her to save their ship by setting the controls to launch when she makes the final connection.
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  • Contrived Coincidence: Avon tells the crew to start recording the Federation patrol right before they blow up. Still, it's shown that they do gather important intelligence about their adversary even before finding out what destroyed them, so he at least has a plausible reason for doing so.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Soolin is starting to get into the swing of things.
    Avon: Slave! What is our life support capability?
    Slave: One hundred and fifty-five hours, Master.
    Soolin: Oh! By the time the oxygen runs out, we'll be bored as well as dead.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Stardrive research lab and Space Rats chopper hanger is hidden under the BBC Quarry.
  • Enhance Button: The space chopper is moving at Standard x 12.6, yet the resolution is still high enough to zoom in on the Space Rat insignia on the pilot's helmet.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: When Scorpio clips the asteroid, things blow up in the control room. Avon orders Slave to activate the backup system. Slave responds that the explosion was the backup system blowing up!
  • Failed a Spot Check: Atlan doesn't notice Tarrant laser-burning a hole through the wall behind him, producing copious amounts of smoke and noise.
  • Fake Shemp: 'Dr Plaxton' wears a ridiculously huge Black Cloak during the chase scene, to hide that 'she' is actually whoever they've got driving the Amphicat buggy.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Photonic Drive.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: This is Orac's attitude when he's shown the video of the ships exploding and immediately recognises why they did but refuses to explain it.
  • Forceful Kiss: Altan to Plaxton.
  • Fragile Speedster: Scorpio is still just a freighter, but now it's the fastest one in the galaxy.
  • Future Slang
    Atlan: OK, bend them.
    Vila: [alarmed] What does that mean?
    Atlan: [Evil Laugh] You'll find out.
  • Going Native: Altan insists that he's not a Space Rat, but as he's wearing their regalia and is just as obsessed with speed and senseless violence, the comment is unconvincing.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Plenty in this episode, but especially the ending.
    Dayna: What about Dr Plaxton?
    Avon: Who?
  • Got Volunteered:
    • Vila is sent down to negotiate with the Space Rats, seeing as he's encountered them before. He should have kept up the drunk act.
    • Dayna and Vila pretend to be students of Dr Plaxton, and loudly discuss the improved model Space Drive she developed back at the lab. Assuming he's being cheated, Altan quickly decides You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, forcing Plaxton to go with Scorpio's crew.
  • The Gunslinger: Soolin guns down numerous Space Rats during their escape.
  • Hates Baths: Who needs one when you sweat regular?
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Vila gets stuck between a couple of rocks and struggles to free himself before a Space Rat patrol spots him.
  • Hilarious Out Takes
  • Hyperspeed Ambush: We get an idea how effective this trope would be from the perspective of someone standing still.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Star Wars-like screen wipes break up the action.
  • Informed Attribute: Vila and Plaxton talk endlessly about how psychotic the Space Rats are. While Altan portrays this attribute admirably, choking Plaxton at random and demanding the prisoners be "bended", he claims not to be a Space Rat, presumably because the actual Space Rats spend most of their time sprawling on comfy cushions getting stoned.
  • Large Ham:
    • Avon, Soolin and Tarrant prove you don't need dialogue to do this, as they can't run through a quarry without frequent breaks to pose dramatically.
    • Altan of course as Evil Is Hammy, except he does it with a silly accent.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Vila gets drunk and start rambling on about this trope. One of the life events he relates gives Avon and Tarrant a Eureka Moment on how to repair the ship. After they've left the bridge, Vila reveals he was only Playing Drunk so he could suggest a solution without being 'volunteered' to carry it out.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Averted; Dr Plaxton points out that while she has the raw materials to build a prototype, she's not an engineer and can't build large numbers of Photonic Drives on command.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Tarrant going along with Avon's plan to use Dayna and Vila as a distraction seems somewhat incongruous with any one of his Depending on the Writer characterisations, either because of his Chronic Hero Syndrome, or because he's doing what Avon says.note  Notably it's Soolin, the cold mercenary who barely knows these people anyway, who objects to the plan, presumably as a result of her taking Cally's role in the script.
  • Padding: The characters stare at viewscreens and creep through quarries longer than necessary.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: A Space Rat chopper takes out three Federation warships in an instant.
  • Playing Drunk: Vila pretends to be drunk so he can make a suggestion on how to fix the current problem (atmosphere leaking out of a hole in the hull) in the form of a rambling reminiscence, but not be called on to undertake the repair himself (because you couldn't give such a dangerous task to someone who was obviously drunk).
  • The Quincy Punk: Space Rats, a gang of far-future outlaw bikers IN SPACE! who dress in leather and have gigantic mohawks, but match the costume and hair with Roy Wood-style glam-rock face paint.
  • Reality Ensues
    • Avon comes up with a Crazy Enough to Work plan that would come off without a hitch in any other space opera, only for Scorpio to crash into the asteroid before they get anywhere near their target.
    • Vila teleports down to a BBC Quarry and gets jammed between rocks.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Vila fumbles his pistol off a cliff while hiding from a patrol. Fortunately it doesn't go off.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Dr Plaxton apparently made an alliance with the Space Rats to get (steal) raw material to continue her research after the Federation collapsed. Three years later she's starting to regret teaming up with a gang of psychotic thugs. As Orac notes, the reconstituted Federation has started a building program to replace its fleet, so she'd have all the resources she needed if only she'd stayed at home.
  • Robots Think Faster: After witnessing three spaceships blow up for no apparent reason the crew have to go through the footage frame-by-frame to find the cause, as Orac refuses to help because from its point-of-view the cause (a small one-man spaceship doing a Hyperspeed Ambush) is blatantly obvious, and so Orac thinks the humans are just being lazy.
  • Scotty Time: Subverted; Plaxton needs 50 minutes to install the Stardrive. She's told she has 45 minutes. Eventually it comes down to a few seconds they don't have, so Avon ends up sacrificing her to save the ship.
  • The Scream: Doctor Plaxton in her death throes.
  • Self-Healing Phlebotinum: Tarrant uses some kind of repair laser to patch up the hull.
  • Sound In Space: We hear Scorpio impacting the asteroid, and the Federation patrol exploding.
  • Status Quo Is God:
    • Scorpio now has all the advantages that the Liberator did — a superintelligent talking computer, a teleport system, and an FTL drive faster than anything the Federation has.
    • Dr Plaxton could have been used to build more Stardrives if they could just find someone to manufacture them, but she's killed off at the end of the episode.
  • Stealth in Space: Avon intends to get to a planet without detection by hugging close to an asteroid, which any starship would steer clear of. They get too close and damage Scorpio. By the end of the episode however, they've got a stardrive that makes them so fast that stealth is irrelevant.
  • Tempting Fate: Vila keeps doing this! The Space Rat patrol hasn't seen them - turns out they're being watched by a CCTV camera. Vila declares it's an antique that probably hasn't worked in ages; Gilligan Cut to them being watched on a monitor. "At least we have the element of surprise!" Cue Space Rat watching them through binoculars.
  • There Was a Door: Tarrant and later the Space Rats burn through the walls with lasers.
  • Tim Taylor Technology: Altan watching the Platonic Drive being tested. "More...more...come on MORE!"
  • Villainous Crush: Altan seems to have one on Dr. Plaxton, inviting her to join the Space Rats while they're enjoying themselves, and giving her a "Take That!" Kiss while threatening her.
  • Visionary Villain: The Space Rats just want ships that can go faster. Altan however has visions of holding the trade lanes to ransom.
  • We Need a Distraction: Avon demonstrates his Anti-Hero credentials by sending Vila and Dayna to find the Space Rats, not mentioning the area they teleported down to is covered by security cameras. Meanwhile Avon lands Scorpio elsewhere so he can sneak in from a different direction.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Napier, Dr Plaxton's assistant?
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?
    Altan: Weeeelll, waaat urrr yoo dooooeeeeeng hungeeng ugghhruuund??? Yoo veeesh too jun uzzz?
  • With Friends Like These...:
    • Orac is its usual annoying self, forcing the crew to check the footage frame by frame to discover what's obvious to the supercomputer, but not to their Mark One Eyeball.
    • Avon decides We Need a Distraction, so he sends down Dayna and Vila to get captured, not warning them that working surveillance cameras are scattered everywhere. This could easily have got them killed given that the Space Rats are known psychotics, were it not for Dayna's quick thinking (pretending to Altan that she knew Dr Plaxton).


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