Blakes 7 – Time Squad

time

The Liberator is en-route for Saurian Major.  Blake explains that it’s home to the Federation’s transceiver complex.  “It’s a vital nerve centre in the Federation space control system. Destroy that, and you blind, deafen and silence them.”

On the way, they stop to pick up a capsule which contains several people in deep cryogenic sleep.  Jenna and Gan remain on-board as their visitors slowly return to life, whilst Blake, Avon and Vila teleport down to the planet.  The three of them meet Cally (Jan Chappell) – the last surviving member of Saurian Major’s resistance group.  She guides them into the complex whilst Gan and Jenna tussle with the now very awake and very deadly aliens ……

Time Squad opens with Blake asserting his authority over the others.  He unilaterally decides to attack Saurian Major and expects the others to follow him, although he does say that anybody is able to opt out at any time, which he obviously considers closes the debate.

Nobody decides to leave, so for the present they all seem content.  Jenna, as we’ve seen, might be happy to remain because of her growing relationship with Blake – there’s further small examples of this during the episode (in addition to the fact that she seems very put out when Cally joins the crew!).  Vila seems to go with the flow, whilst Gan later admits that he can’t be on his own – he has to be around people he can trust (although the reasons for this aren’t immediately clear).  And Avon, by far Blake’s staunchest critic, remains on the sidelines, tossing the occasional barbed comment Blake’s way.

As previously touched upon, because Blakes 7 has such an abundance of technological wonders (and there are more in this episode, such as the device which instantly mends Jenna’s broken arm) ways have to be found to limit their effectiveness – lest the dramatic tension of the stories are completely eroded.

There’s two direct examples in Time Squad – and indeed, the word “limiter” is mentioned in both cases.  The first occurs when the Liberator encounters the floating projectile – it seems clear that Zen senses it contains danger, but can’t or won’t directly state this.  For dramatic purposes this makes sense – had he told them it contained several homicidal lunatics who were programmed to destroy all life, it’s a fair bet they would have left it where it was!

But it doesn’t make any logical sense for Zen to have this limit placed upon him (by, presumably, the Liberator‘s creator).  It just feels like slightly clumsy plotting, as is the fact that nobody seems to take the slightest heed to Zen’s strange behavour anyway.  You would have assumed that someone would have twigged that maybe the sleepers were bad news (a look at their faces should have been proof enough).

The second limiter has been placed in Gan’s head.  I assume this was done after he was convicted of murder, since it means he can no longer take a life.  His inability to kill will have serious consequences when the sleepers are running amok – although it didn’t seem to be a problem in the previous few episodes, where he was happy enough to crack any number of heads together.  Why couldn’t Gan aim to disable, rather than kill?  Again, this feels like a plot contrivance – in order to make him less effective (and place Jenna in direct peril) a way had to be found to neuter him.

With Gan below par, this leaves Jenna at the mercy of the aliens.  Whilst it’s true that the concept of a woman stalked by several stronger men is a familiar, if not very progressive, trope, it does at least allow Sally Knyvette a decent amount of screen-time.  In later episodes she would become progressively marginalised, ending up as little more than the teleport operator.  The Blake/Avon/Vila combination seemed to be the most appealing for many of the writers, which unfortunately meant that Jenna and Cally had very little to do at times.  In Time Squad though, she’s able to carry part of the narrative by herself.  Jenna may be frightened, but she’s also resourceful and independent.

Whilst Gan and Jenna have their hands full aboard the Liberator, Blake and the others teleport down to Saurian Major (which you may not be surprised to learn is a quarry) and meet Cally.  She will prove to be an asset – as she’s a hardened fighter and someone who’s just as fanatical, if not more so, than Blake.

Blake says he needs Cally’s help to infiltrate the complex, but it’s hard to see why, since they appear to just stroll in with no trouble at all.  This is more than a little bizarre – if this really is a top-security installation, how are they able to reach their goal without anybody challenging them?  It’s just too easy and therefore there’s no tension to these sequences.  And though Blake tells us that the transceiver complex is a vital piece of Federation hardware, its destruction doesn’t seem to make any difference to the Federation’s ability to hunt the Liberator down in later episodes.

Since this part of the plot isn’t very effective (and the lumbering sleepers plotine drags on as well) it’s fair to say that the crew interactions are the main pleasures to be taken from Time Squad.  Everybody gets some space to develop their characters – especially Gan, as we learn some of his back-story (which unfortunately is never touched on again).  Vila continues to wisecrack.  When told that some of the plant-life on Saurian Major has an intelligence rating, he says “that’s a comfort. I should hate to be eaten by something stupid.”

Blake/Jenna/Cally is an intriguing triangle which was never really developed in the series (although I’m sure there’s plenty of fan-fic out there, should you wish to find it).  We’ve seen Blake and Jenna develop a closeness and also observed how she seems put out to see Cally join the crew.  It’s hard to imagine anything romantic developing between Blake and Cally, but their fanatical nature makes them two of a kind.

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