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Recap / Blakes Seven S 4 E 8 Games

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Written by Bill Lyons.
Directed by Vivienne Cozens.
Airdate: 16 November 1981.

Feldon crystals are an invaluable and potentially limitless source of energy, and Avon is determined to steal a consignment from the mine run by Belkov, a compulsive player of computer games. Belkov has been embezzling his own mining operation, concealing a fortune in Feldon crystals on an orbiting satellite. When Servalan arrives to put a stop to Belkov's scheme and claim the crystals for herself, Belkov plays both sides against each other in an increasingly deadly gambit.

This episode has the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Belkov
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Gambit evolved from a game-playing computer on a Pleasure Planet. Belkov has tweaked and modified the computer over the years, and has become totally dependent on it. After being ordered to self-destruct, Gambit complies but refuses to relinquish control over Belkov's ship beforehand, so he is destroyed too.
  • Ambiguous Ending: An accidental version — the destruction of Belkov's ship is not shown, and as Belkov goes out with a laugh, audience members often assume that he escaped.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse (with plenty of Shame If Something Happened)
    • Avon discovers that Gerron has been using his advance knowledge of mineral discoveries to indulge in insider trading, so he blackmails the surveyor into helping him steal the crystals.
    • Belkov asks that Scorpio rescue him from Sevalan, offering half his stash of crystals. In case they're reluctant, he points out those same crystals can be used to power the tractor beams that will trap Scorpio in orbit.
    • When Servalan finds that half the estimated yield of the Feldon mine is missing, she gives Belkov a choice between handing over the crystals, or being arrested for either theft (for stealing them) or fraud (for misreporting his yield estimates). Belkov offers in turn the Scorpio crew in exchange for his freedom, enough crystals to live comfortably, and Orac, though he actually intends to betray everyone and make off with all the crystals.
  • Answer Cut:
    • Vila asks who they're going to steal the crystals from. Meet Belkov.
    • Gerron says that the Security investigator is known to Avon. Cut to... a bunch of guys breaking rocks, but Sleer soon slinks into view.
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration:
    Avon: He is also greedy, avaricious and a crook.
    Vila: Has he got any faults?
  • BBC Quarry: Justified this time as it's an actual quarry.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Feldon crystals provide infinite power and wealth to anyone who possesses them; they can even serve as a Weapon of Mass Destruction as the opening scene demonstrates. So our heroes are eager to stop the Federation getting them. But if they don't intend to sell them as Vila wants, what other recourse would rebels have but to use them as a weapon?
  • Blackmail:
    Avon: He was working on a deep space project, searching out mining planets. If you run the relevant sets of figures together you will see that he delayed his information just long enough to manipulate the Commodities Market.
    Vila: That's not really crooked.
    Avon: You tell that to his Federation masters.
    Soolin: Is that what you threatened to do?
    Avon: I merely reminded him that since I got the information from the Federation computers, somebody else might also piece it together, in which case he would find himself in a penal colony.
    Dayna: So you blackmailed him.
    Avon: Naturally.
  • Bond One-Liner: A guard falls into the pulveriser.
    Vila: Nasty way to go. All that dust — bad for the chest.
    • After watching thousands of deaths in a Feldon accident, Avon quips, "That's one way of solving an energy crisis."
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Lampshaded by Vila, but he finds a way to steal one of Belkov's fingerprints instead.
  • Break the Fake: When Vila proudly produces the Feldon necklace that's all they've been able to salvage from this caper, Avon smashes it under his pistol butt, as it's a fake.
  • Complexity Addiction: The Orbiter is booby-trapped with deadly forms of the games that Belkov likes.
  • Computer Voice: Gambit has a female voice. At one point, she's talking in unison with Orac.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Despite an early blunder, Vila doesn't do too badly — convincing Gambit to help them, gunning down a guard, keeping silent when another guard steps on his hand, working out a shortcut through the fingerprint lock, and freeing the others from the blast chamber.
  • The Caper: With all sides trying to pull their own caper.
  • Deadly Game: The Booby Traps in the Orbiter.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The Feldon crystals could fund the revolution, power hidden bases and breakaway colonies, even serve as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. So naturally they're lost at the end of the episode. The only compensation is that Servalan doesn't get them either.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: The crystal that Vila steals.
  • Fatal Flaw: Avon realises that as Belkov only trusts himself, he has to do everything himself, so must depend on automated systems — thus his computer is the only one he trusts. Sure enough Gambit is the only player able to outsmart Belkov.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Belkov is introduced beating Gambit at a game and jibing her about it. He then congratulates her on a 'sneaky' chess move that appears to take him by surprise. At the end of the episode Belkov is winning, only to be thrown by an unexpected move by Gambit.
    • When Dayna worries that the Federation pursuit ships will attack Scorpio, Avon says not to worry as they'll be more interested in the Orbiter. This foreshadows the reveal that the Orbiter is just a distraction so Belkov can escape.
    • There's a continuity error where Orac is seen on both Scorpio and the Orbiter at the same time. But in the episode "Orbit", Avon reveals that he built a fake Orac sometime before, so this could be it.
  • God Guise: Belkov did this with the Mecronians. Knowing of a local legend where the gods struck down someone with a Bolt of Divine Retribution, he claimed the gods had sent him to collect their crystals, then gunned down the priests who objected with a remote-controlled laser rifle.
  • Implied Death Threat
    Belkov: (regarding the above God Guise) They found my survival most miraculous.
    Servalan: Your survival is becoming more miraculous by the moment.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Mecronian throwing dagger is a triangle. You couldn't stab someone without cutting yourself, and you couldn't throw it well enough to kill a man, despite what's shown on screen.
  • Info Dump: The exposition on Feldon crystals.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: Subverted; Servalan's thugs are smashing up Belkov's control room, searching for the crystals. Belkhov warns them not to touch the computer. A guard immediately does so, only to suffer fatal electrocution. Well he did warn them; turns out Gambit is capable of self-defence.
  • I Work Alone: When Belkhov says The Natives Are Restless Servalan demands to know why he didn't ask for more troops. In a rare outburst of temper, Belkhov snaps back that he didn't need them. "I managed things for myself!" Of course given that he was involved in embezzlement the last thing he wanted was anyone looking over his shoulder.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Feldon crystals concentrate energy and thus are a limitless source of power, as they could draw that power from distant suns.
  • Large Ham: Avon spends half the episode wearing a Psychotic Smirk.
  • Leave No Man Behind: Averted when Gerron gets shot; Tarrant yanks Dayna away when she goes to check his body. He survives to be interrogated by Servalan.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Belkov tells Servalan where the Seven are hiding, but it's actually a Mecronian sacred site where the priests instantly attack the intruders.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident
    • Several members of Belkov's survey team died in suspicious accidents. Then when Servalan tries leaning on him, several of her men get killed by angry natives.
    • Belkov's Evil Plan includes blowing up the mine (destroying evidence of his swindling) and letting the Scorpio rebels take the blame.
    • Averted with the explosion that blows up a Feldon-powered colony at the start. Avon says it really was an accident, and a lucky one from the Federation's point-of-view, as the planet had been mined out and they were planning to abandon the colonists to a slow death, rather than spend the money to relocate nonessential personnel to another planet.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Mecronian priests.
  • Man on Fire: When things start blowing up, Vila witnesses a burning priest running out of the mine.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: Feldon crystals
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Vila stands up for a look and is spotted by a guard. He makes up for this by rescuing Tarrant and the others later.
  • Not Helping Your Case: The guards search Vila and find a native dagger of the type used to kill four of them. When they demand to know where Vila found it he replies truthfully, "Stuck in the back of one of your men."
  • Only Friend: Gambit to Belkov, who gets quite emotional when he has to order his computer to destroy itself, despite having betrayed or murdered numerous others.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: The Seven have to break into a satellite protected by deadly challenges. Soolin handles the Quick Draw game, Tarrant handles the flight simulator and Villa gets them through the lock.
  • Quick Draw: Soolin beats herself in a Quick Draw against a Deadly Game that's designed to match and then exceed her own performance.
  • Rule of Threes: The Quick Draw game has the player drawing three times against the computer, represented by an image of yourself. The first two times it matches your skill, but for the final draw it exceeds your skill, so you have to lift your game in turn to survive.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Gerron and his two accomplices, to show the Deadly Game on the Orbiter.
  • Schmuck Bait: Belkov leads our heroes into the blast chamber, points out the rocketship above them, then slips out the door and locks it while they're looking up.
    Tarrant: Well, we walked into that with our eyes open.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Naturally as Belkov is The Chessmaster. He's introduced playing the usual futuristic multi-dimensional chessboard, as well as the traditional versions on multiple screens.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Belkov vs. Servalan.
  • Stealth in Space: Avon pretends to flee in Scorpio. Knowing Belkov will be too busy to track him personally, Avon then fools his automated detection system by using the Orbiter to shield their return path.
  • Stuff Blowing Up
    • The episode opens with the crew watching a recording of the Agravo colony exploding from an overload of their Feldon crystals.
    • Belkov starts blowing things up to destroy evidence and kill Servalan's mooks, plus the occasional innocent bystander from the native workforce.
  • Taking You with Me: Gambit refuses to hand over automated control to Belkov before activating its Self-Destruct Mechanism. Belkov in turn convinces Gambit to lock the Feldon crystals into a black hole, so everyone else will be pulled in as well.
  • Tim Taylor Technology: Scorpio escapes the black hole somehow by blasting all their power (minus life support) into the Feldon panels on the Orbiter.
  • With Friends Like These...: Avon comes up with a plan (pretending to run for it, then doubling back) that will leave their friends down on the planet (temporarily) without means of escape, but notes to Soolin that if things go wrong, at least they can escape for real.
  • Woman Scorned: The female-voiced Gambit blows herself up as ordered, but takes Belkov with him. He finds it Actually Pretty Funny that his computer has beaten him at last.
  • World of Snark: Everyone is in fine form.
    Vila: They're after blood! My blood!
    Dayna: Tell them you've already given.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's not clear what happened to Gerron, but it can't have been good. Either Servalan killed him, or he spent the rest of his life in a Penal Colony for consorting with rebels and helping lose the most valuable Green Rocks in the galaxy.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Belkov excels at this.
  • You Fool!: Avon's response when he finds Gerron has jumped the gun.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once Agravo had been mined of all useful minerals, the Federation evacuated the skilled personnel and left the others to die a slow death when their resources ran out. As it turns out an industrial accident killed them first.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Avon realises the Orbiter holding the crystals is actually empty, and is just a distraction while Belkov escapes.