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Recap / Blakes Seven S 4 E 9 Sand

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Written by Tanith Lee.
Directed by Vivienne Cozens.
Airdate: 23 November 1981.

Don Keller, the Sole Survivor of a Federation expedition to the planet Virn, sends out a Distress Call claiming that the planet he's stranded on has a unique property that will interest his superiors. Servalan takes a spacecraft to investigate, while the Seven go to find out what she's after and get their hands on it first. This leads to Servalan and Tarrant stranded on the planet together. You can guess what happens next.

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This episode has the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny
    Servalan: (evil titter) I hate to tell you this Tarrant, but you just killed an enemy of mine.
    Tarrant: (grin) Everyone's entitled to one, very bad mistake.
  • Affectionate Pickpocket: Tarrant is stranded on a planet with Servalan, so they form an alliance to survive. When Tarrant has a Eureka Moment on how to defeat the Monster of the Week, Servalan gives him a Smooch of Victory. Tarrant warns that he still has his gun...which Servalan promptly produces in her hand.
  • Aliens Made Them Do It: Though it's uncertain just how much external influence was involved. Avon/Soolin/Dayna show no inclination to start bonking.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Keller's Distress Call.
  • Atmosphere Abuse: Scorpio is dived through the atmosphere to create rain, which destroys the sand.
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  • Auto Kitchen: Tarrant uses one to make dinner for two.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment
    • Tarrant looks like he's going to inform Avon that Servalan is down there, but then just tells Avon to teleport him up.
    • "Del Tarrant, I had the gun but I didn't kill you. Yet."
  • Baby Factory: The sand keeps a male and female couple alive to create future breeding stock.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Vila does a rather hammy version.
  • BBC Quarry: Averted despite an In-Universe justification for a great deal of sand!
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Reeve does this to Tarrant, thinking he's a member of the Keller expedition.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Neither Tarrant or Servalan can bring themselves to kill each other.
  • Buried Alive: The sand partly covers Servalan's ship and the Keller survival hut.
  • Call-Back:
    Servalan: What is your particular grudge against me?
    Tarrant: Let me see. You sat and watched my brother die. That doesn't seem to make me like you very much. Aside from all the countless other reasons anyone might have for blowing your head off.
    • Soolin mentions the events of "Sarcophagus" (also written by scriptwriter Tanith Lee), "Terminal" and "Rescue".
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    • Servalan reveals how she escaped the Liberator in "Terminal".
  • Cassette Futurism
    Reeve: Running the tapes again? Afraid you missed something?
    Servalan: Perhaps I like watching old films.
    Reeve: Five years old and mostly static and interference.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The cube of spring water that Tarrant gives Servalan is used by her to destroy the last of the sand on her spaceship.
  • Compensating for Something: Played for Drama with a female character.
    Servalan: Don Keller, he was my lover. I was eighteen. [snip] He left me. I grew up. Power became my lover. Power is like a drug. It is beautiful. Shining. I could destroy a planet by pressing a button. I loved him.
  • Continuity Nod: Dayna is the first to show distaste for Tarrant sleeping with Servalan, a reference to her blood feud from "Aftermath".
  • A Day in the Limelight: For both Tarrant and Servalan.
  • Death World: Not in the Everything Trying to Kill You sense; there's only one thing trying to kill you — it just happens to be everywhere.
  • Description Cut: A Running Gag involving Vila.
    • Servalan's spaceship is Coming in Hot. Cut to Vila shouting, "Bang!" while slamming a drink on the table.
    • Tarrant gets the food replicator working. Cut to Vila complaining that he's hungry.
    • Tarrant shoots out the windows. Cut to Vila starting awake at the sound of glass breaking.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Servalan shoots down Reeve, but warms up to Tarrant.
    Reeve: Commissioner Sleer? In charge of the Pacification program? There's nothing for you on Virn. Unless someone thought I'd be lonely?
    Servalan: I'm sure you're accustomed to loneliness, Investigator Reeve. You must be alone such a lot.
  • Double Meaning: Servalan doesn't know if Tarrant is going to drag her back to the others at gunpoint.
    Avon: [on Comm Links] We're bringing you up. Now.
    Tarrant: All right. Oh by the way, I've found out what the magic chemical is... but I can't bring it back with me.
  • Driven to Suicide: The woman with Keller shot herself when she realized the sand was keeping them alive as breeding stock.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Subverted; Vila appears to be doing this over memories of Cally, but he's actually having his Life Energy drained. He gets better once they remove him from the sand.
  • Easily Forgiven: Servalan didn't just watch Tarrant's brother die (even Del Tarrant did that!); she was behind the conspiracy that got him killed.
  • Enemy Mine: Servalan/Tarrant. It only lasts until Servalan thinks she has the advantage.
  • Eureka Moment: A dropped glass on Scorpio and Servalan's tears reveal the Weaksauce Weakness of the sand.
  • Empathic Environment: Justified as the sand is affecting the weather.
    Dayna: Oh, and thunder right on cue. This is silly.
    Soolin: Is it?
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Or had.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Reeves is stated early on to be a torturer, just to establish that he's more nasty than our favorite villainess. He's also a bullying Jerkass in contrast to the Affably Evil Servalan.
  • Fake Kill Scare: Servalan tells Tarrant she can kill him because her pilot is still alive. But the audience has seen the sand inside her spaceship sliding towards Chasgo. Later Servalan finds Chasgo slumped over his console, but it turns out he threw out the sand and fell asleep from exhaustion (no doubt due to the sand draining his cellular energy before he got rid of it).
  • Finger Muzzle: Just before he's teleported up Tarrant is about to say something to Servalan, but she silences him with this trope before he vanishes before her fingers.
  • Fix Fic: Regarded as one for "The Harvest of Kairos". Specifically Reeve hits on Servalan with just the same kind of rapey overbearing machismo as Jarvik did in the earlier episode... and this time, because she's being written in character by a writer who isn't a notorious misogynist, she reacts with utter loathing and contempt.
  • Foe Cooties: When Tarrant reveals that the woman he was trapped with was Servalan, everyone walks off the flight deck in silent disgust (hopefully the rest of Scorpio has been repressurized). Except Avon, who makes a point of revealing that Servalan's chances of survival aren't good.
  • Foe Romance Subtext
    Servalan: You are both resourceful and decorative.
    Tarrant: Thank you. I might say the same about you. But then I'd also say you're possibly the most unscrupulously venomous woman in the galaxy. Being shut in here with you is rather like being locked in a cage with a panther — a black cat with large golden eyes and long silver talons.
    Servalan: Oh, Tarrant. I'm just the girl next door.
    Tarrant: If you were the girl next door, I'd move.
    Servalan: Where would you move to, Tarrant?
    Tarrant: Next door.
  • Freudian Excuse: See Compensating for Something. This would explain not only Servalan's drive for power, but why she keeps bouncing back from every setback with yet another plan to increase that power.
  • Hair-Trigger Avalanche: Chasgo testing the engines causes a sandslide. Or so it appears.
  • Hell Is That Noise: There's a sound like the wind, yet Tarrant points out there is no wind, even though the sand is still moving.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Steven Pacey's clipgun goes off whenever he tries to pick it up. He also broke the cube of water, soaking them both.
  • Human Resources
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: Servalan sashays through the sands of Virn in heels and a black evening gown. Compare this to the more pragmatic but still stylish outfit she wears in "Orac".
  • It Can Think: Tarrant speculates that the sand has a rudimentary intelligence, and so can pick and choose its victims.
  • It's the Only Way
    Avon: THIS IS NOT JUST A RESCUE MISSION FOR POOR GALLANT TARRANT! While the sand remains active, the planet will not let go of US! The instruments are unreliable. We have Virn hanging on our heels. How do you think WE are going to get away? [Soolin and Dayna rush to their positions.] I take it that means yes.
  • Just Think of the Potential: Though for once the persons concerned Know When To Fold Them.
    Tarrant: It appears the sand can nourish itself on the dead too so it makes sure the dead stay edible. And there's the unique element we came here to find, a preservative that acts indefinitely without dehydration or freezing. Oh it could be incredibly useful. It's also completely unget-at-able under Virn's built-in conditions.
  • Kill It with Water: Water destroys the sand, so the crew of Scorpio makes it rain, giving Tarrant and Servalan a chance to get back to their ships.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: Servalan takes Tarrant's handgun and presses the barrel to her forehead.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Given that the planet is somehow affecting power, both Reeve and Dayna/Tarrant bring weapons that fire 'percussion bullets'.
  • Leave No Man Behind: Averted with the Keller expedition who were callously abandoned by the Federation when it appeared they had fallen victim to a mysterious plague.
  • Locked in a Room: Or stranded on a planet, then buried in a room. You could say it's an Enforced Trope, given that the sand wants them to get together in a coital sense.
  • The Lost Lenore: Don Keller for Servalan.
  • The Nicknamer: Reeve calls Servalan "Madam Brainwasher".
  • No One Could Survive That! meets Diabolus ex Machina.
    Tarrant: How did you get away from the Liberator?
    Servalan: It was difficult.
    Tarrant: It was impossible.
    Servalan: Manifestly not.
    Tarrant: So how?
    Servalan: The teleport. A malfunction. A power surge. Suddenly I was back on a Federation world.
  • Not Me This Time: Reeve reveals that he knows Servalan's identity and suggests she killed the Red Shirt because he discovered this. While Servalan has done this in the past, the Red Shirt was killed by the sand, and then Reeves is killed by Tarrant.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Reeve fires a wild shot and clips Dayna on the arm. Tarrant gives this trope but has Dayna teleported up to Scorpio.
  • Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: Tarrant presents Servalan with a cube of Earth spring water.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business
    • Servalan is visibly nervous at times and openly distraught at finding her New Old Flame's body. At the end of the episode, she doesn't kill Tarrant when she has the chance.
    • Vila starts Suddenly SHOUTING! when Soolin brings up Cally's death.
  • Percussive Maintenance
  • The Radio Dies First: The sand effects the planet's magnetic field and thus electrical equipment, including Comm Links.
  • Red Shirt: Played entirely straight — Reeve's nameless assistant gets sanded to death, while Chasgo survives.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Distraught over Keller's death, Servalan has Sex for Solace with Tarrant.
  • Robo Sexual: Confused by the electrical interference, Orac starts spouting love poetry to Avon.
    Orac: I love you.
    Vila: Orac!
    Orac: My emotions are deeper than the seas of space. One times one is only possible in the ultra-dimensional.
    Avon: Turn Orac off.
    Orac: I love you.
    Avon: Off!
    Orac: We will be lovers for a little while, or maybe for a long while, who knows?
    Soolin: I do. (deactivates it)
  • Security Cling: Servalan jumps at a Beeping Computer and grabs Tarrant's arm.
  • Send in the Search Team: Keller sends out a Distress Call to a Federation that's more worried about its own problems than rescuing a couple of survivors who could bring back a dangerous plague. Only Servalan of all people cares enough to go looking.
  • Sentient Sands: The planet is covered with living, carnivorous sand, which tries to trap visitors and force them to breed so that it can have a farmed population to feed on.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Tarrant and Servalan kiss and are shown later fully dressed.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Seeing that the sand is regenerating, Servalan runs for her spaceship, wakes up the pilot and orders him to launch immediately without waiting for explanations or safety checks.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Even when there's no wind to shift the sand...
  • Signature Style: As in "Sarcophagus", Tanith Lee has a horror-and-romance theme for this episode.
  • Space Clothes: Investigator Reeves is wearing a silver bomber jacket and pants, while his crew wear the campy Flash Gordon uniforms from "The Harvest of Kairos".
  • Screen Shake: When Servalan's ship and later Scorpio enter the atmosphere on Virn.
  • The Spock: Avon uses a Probability Square to work out what's going on.
  • Torture Technician
    Reeve: But Keller, now he strikes me like a man who's scared enough. They wreck their ship on landing and he was virtually alone. He'd say anything to save his skin. I've seen that kind of stuff from dozens of people under torture!
    Reeve: I get results. And I'll get results on Virn, if there's any to be got.
  • Vampiric Draining: The sand feeds on the cellular energy of its victims. Tarrant even compares it to a vampire.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Keller does this in his Captain's Log in the opening scene.
    "I know a land beyond the heart of time. The sun never comes there. No moon ever shines. And man, a grain of sand, nameless and lost, blows with the dust. I apologise, H.Q., but that's what this place makes me think of."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The crew react with disgust when they realise what Tarrant got up to with Servalan.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The moment Tarrant teleports down, Reeve starts feeling poorly.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Tarrant and Servalan use this trope on each other. Surprisingly, they're both right.
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